The Sharks have confirmed four of their six Development players for the 2021 season, with a couple of 2020 NRL debutants returning and two new faces joining the extended NRL squad.
Additional to the top 30, but as was the case in 2020 Development players can be elevated in the NRL team in certain circumstances, the Sharks have built a strong list of young players to complement their NRL squad.
Returning next season will be 2020 NRL debutants Jackson Ferris and Daniel Vasquez, with the pair having made a positive impression when given an opportunity last year, while local junior Jonaiah Lualua and highly regarded Brisbane front rower Jack Martin have also been signed to the Sharks Development player list.
Ferris, who was introduced to the club at a Development Camp before joining the Sharks as a 17-year-old, enjoyed a solid outing in his first NRL match against the Broncos in Brisbane, scoring a smart try only to injure a knee late in the game.
The knee problem kept him sidelined for the remainder of the 2020 season, however with a solid pre-season and continued improvement, Ferris could push for more opportunities in the NRL squad next year and beyond.
As for Vasquez, the local front rower from the Yarrawarrah and St Josephs clubs waited patiently for his chance at the NRL level before being chosen for the Sharks round 20 match against the Raiders.
Coming off the bench Vasquez ran with purpose and was reliable defensively against the experienced Raiders pack, handing in a performance which displayed his potential to make the next step into becoming an NRL regular.
Ferris and Vasquez will be joined by a familiar face in Lualua, an exciting young outside back who has come through the Sharks Academy system, along with the 19-year-old Martin, a front rower who has represented Queensland at age group levels.
Both Lualua and Martin will be eligible to play in the Jersey Flegg competition but are expected to also be considered for the places in the Newtown Jets side in the NSW Cup.
The Sharks will be looking to add two more Development players to train alongside the Sharks top 30 NRL squad throughout the year and have three NRL roster spots also still available.
A strong running outside back, as an 18-year-old Lualua played a role in the Sharks premiership-winning Jersey Flegg season of 2018 before enduring an injury-interrupted 2019 then being forced to sit out much of last year due to the COVID situation. Having played much of his junior football with the local Aquinas Colts Club, still just 20 years of age, Lualua has the ability to play fullback or wing and has the size, speed and athleticism to forge a successful NRL career.
A front rower from the Ipswich Jets, Martin played an NRL trial with the Broncos as an 18-year-old last year before, like many, his opportunities where limited due to the impacts of COVID and the cancellation of the Queensland Cup competition. Has represented Queensland at under-18 Origin level, starting at prop in a team which was successful in beating NSW in their 2019 clash and comes to the Sharks as a highly rated prospect.
The New Zealand-born Ferris was introduced to the club at a development coaching camp before signing with the Sharks and progressing through the grades in the under-18’s and under-20’s. He earned a Development contract in 2020 and also an NRL debut while in 2019 was one of the stars of the Newtown Jets dual premiership success, scoring the match-winning try in the Canterbury Cup Grand Final. Capable of playing centre or wing, Ferris impressed in his one and only top-grade outing, scoring a smart try against the Broncos before a knee injury late in that debut game saw him miss the remainder of the season.
A local junior from the St Josephs and Yarrawarrah clubs, Vasquez made his NRL debut for the Sharks in their first regular season game against the Raiders. Previous to last year’s COVID-impacted NRL season where his opportunities were limited, Vasquez had played a leading role in the Newtown Jets premiership success in 2019 and was a standout when coming through the Sharks junior academy system, winning the man of the match award in his teams 2015 Matthews Cup Grand Final win.