Who will run out round one when the Sharks tackle the Dragons and maybe more significantly, which players will cement positions in the top 17 as the year progresses?
This instalment takes a look at the playmakers, the halves likely to fill the six and seven jerseys for coach John Morris and the Sharks in 2021.
The Achilles injury suffered by Shaun Johnson late in the 2020 season has thrown up a selection dilemma for Sharks coach John Morris in the early rounds this year, with the Kiwi international scheduled to be sidelined until somewhere close to round eight.
Johnson was enjoying an outstanding season in 2020, leading the NRL in try assists while providing much of the Sharks spark in attack, the untimely injury severely hampering the teams’ finals assault.
In Johnson's early season absence, Morris will need to find an alternative to Johnson through the early rounds.
Chad Townsend looks likely to remain the Sharks ‘quarterback’ in terms of being the man to implement the game plan and steer the side around the field, the local junior the expected pick to start the season in the number seven jersey. But who will his halves partner be?
Connor Tracey did himself no harm with his energetic performances when Townsend was suspended for a period and following the Johnson injury, and he appears to be a leading candidate.
Interestingly however, Tracey has spent a good percentage of his time during the summer training at fullback, Morris and his staff impressed by his progress and development in the position, while his ability to play a handful of roles also makes him the perfect ‘#14’ bench utility. Sometimes such versatility can be as much an asset as it is curse when trying to lock down a permanent place in a starting side.
Equally impressive on the training paddock during the pre-season has been Matt Moylan, who although perhaps better known as a fullback, has all the attributes to be a success as a regular five eighth.
So far so good and Moylan is fit and strong, ‘touch wood’ the injury issues which have plagued his last two years at the Sharks (he did play 24 games in 2018 at Cronulla) are behind him. His skill level is right up there with the elite of the game and we hope fans will get to see the best of Moylan in 2021. Just maybe, that might be at five eighth.
Braydon Trindall is another working hard on the training field and looking to take the next step to becoming a regular NRL player.
Trindall had a taste of the top-grade with five games played last season. He can kick goals, his overall game and general play kicking is solid and he isn’t afraid to put his body in front in defence, with consistency, both during games and week to week, set to be his challenge.
Then there is Luke Metcalf, also listed amongst the fullback candidates but a youngster to come through the grades as a half. A player with blistering speed, Metcalf has played in the halves at NSW Junior Origin level and can certainly be a success if afforded the opportunity.
Currently on a Development contract, if considered good enough and the situation dictates, look for Metcalfe to potentially get a call up at some point in time during the 2021 season.
Perhaps the experienced Townsend has one spot nailed down, if that is the case who will be his halves partner to start the 2021 season? And what happens when Johnson is declared fit and he is ready for a return?
Plenty of decisions to make for Morris and his co-coaches but he has a collection of quality candidates to choose from.
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