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Renouf: Why Sharks can Wade deep into finals football

With captain Wade Graham in supreme form and a young side playing for their coach John Morris, I believe the Sharks can go deep into finals football.

That is with one proviso, that they fix up their defensive frailties – which I believe they will when they get more continuity with their side as several big guns return from injury.

Paul Gallen retired last year after leading the club so well and Graham has stepped up superbly. The transition has been seamless.

I was at the 36-26 win over Brisbane last week and Graham made a telling one-on-one strip before half-time which led to a try to Jackson Ferris.

With 10 minutes to go and his side trailing by eight he stood up and hassled Tom Dearden to secure possession after a short line drop-out. He then had a hand in a try and got a vital repeat set with a slick kick.

Some kind of magic from the Sharks

All of a sudden the Sharks had won by 10 points and the leadership of their skipper was the difference.

What I admire about Graham is his complete game as a genuine footballer and a back-rower that can play with the ball.

Terry Matterson was one of those for the Broncos in the 1990s and he reminds me so much of him in the way he has foresight and can change the game at the drop of a hat.

Ferris gets a try on debut for Cronulla

We always used to talk about how we had Kevin Walters and Allan Langer, but we also had a third half which was Matterson. He used to do a lot of set-up plays and go looking for me a bit and I would get the ball off him.

He would do it in moments of the game when you are not expecting it as a very smart footballer.

Graham reminds me of him. He has got everything. He is tough. He is smart and has all the skills. He is what we call a true rugby league player. Every team needs one and he is one of the game’s best players.

He doesn’t shout from the high heavens what he can do. He just does it. When the team is in a lull and needs something special he will get them out of it.

Last week I watched Ronaldo Mulitalo and Sione Katoa sniff tries out and finish off with plenty of work to do. That is a good sign that the team is going well inside them, even though my old wing partner Michael Hancock may not agree because I never gave him  the ball.  

Will Kennedy at fullback is a good lad and I am impressed with what he has done in the last 18 months with his spark. When the coach brings him in, he does the job.

Quick hands from Johnson creates try for Katoa

What this tells me is Morris has great systems and the respect of all the kids.

Morris, who played 300 NRL games himself, took the Sharks to the finals last year. That is impressive when you follow a club’s first premiership-winning coach.

There have been times where his coaching future has been questioned but I can’t understand why.

Mulitalo scores despite the best efforts from Flegler

He took over a team transitioning from a premiership win, and then big-name retirements, but he has done it well. He has a great balance to his side, something the Broncos of today lack.

Morris has done a good job bringing the youngsters in with Graham, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Aaron Woods, Matt Moylan, Josh Dugan and Andrew Fifita.

He is one of those coaches who has a cool, calm and collected air about him and his players want to play for him, which is just so important.

Siosifa Talakai and Toby Rudolf have impressed me a lot. They are real beasts with the ball in their hands. Rudolf rips up the middle and when Talakai is on an edge, just look out.

Talakai charges over close to the line

Rudolf has stepped up in Fifita’s absence. I got to interview Andrew for our Deadly Choices show recently and it was a lot of fun.

I watched the game last week as a guest of the Brisbane Broncos with our Deadly Choices team.

The Broncos do some fantastic work with us in in the Indigenous health sphere and at Deadly Choices we have a partnership with the Sharks. I have been to the club and met the players and they are a very good group.

The club does a lot of great work in the Indigenous community and that comes from CEO Dino Mezzatesta right down.

They have a big Indigenous community around the Cronulla area with the Koori mob and of course they have had some wonderful Indigenous players like David Peachey and Preston Campbell, and still do. Wade Graham is one himself.

Cronulla are the second best attacking team in the NRL but their defence is the 14th best and that is the area that Morris must fix if they are to go deep into the finals.

The top tries, and try savers, so far in 2020

I believe he has the nous to do that and once they get their main men back from injury, they can be a dark horse.

With an in-form Shaun Johnson taking the game by the scruff of the neck and playing like he did at his best for the Warriors we know Cronulla can score points. They just need to tighten up defensively.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.