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First look: Fullbacks

With new recruit Nicho Hynes brought to the Cronulla club to take up a position in the halves, the Sharks Porter-Gallen Medallist from last season in Will Kennedy has the inside running to secure the number one jersey for the year ahead.

Kennedy was outstanding in 2021 in taking his game to another level, his attacking play and defensive improvement resulting in him being not only named his team’s best for the season but also nominated alongside the likes of Tom Trbojevic and James Tedesco for the Dally M Fullback of the Year award.

Now spoken about in company with some of the game’s elite, Kennedy faces the challenge of ramping it up even further in building on what he produced last season.

In a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, coach Craig Fitzgibbon was confident Kennedy had plenty more to give in 2022.

“Will has got some more gears in him and we’ve spoken at length about that this pre-season,” Fitzgibbon said. “So far I’ve seen nothing to suggest Will has taken his foot off the gas, if anything, he’s acutely aware he wants to go up another level. That’s not just a mindset. That comes with a lot of hard work and application and he’s spending a lot of time with the staff on the training paddock. I’ve also noted his voice in commanding the team around the field.’’

While Kennedy is almost certain to start the season at the back for the Sharks, Fitzgibbon has a handful of other options at his disposal.

The experienced Matt Moylan is competing for a place in the Sharks halves to start the year, however the former Panther has previously played some his best football at fullback, earning representative honours in the position while at the Penrith club.

Another talented performer capable of filling the role is Connor Tracey, perhaps the Sharks most versatile backline player, and a man credited somewhat for his teammate’s rise in 2021 after the pair went head-to-head during the last pre-season before Kennedy eventually got the nod to begin the year in the number one jersey.

Speedy youngster Luke Metcalf is another who has spent some time at the back in games and on the training paddock and would relish the open spaces fullback offers, although his preference is also likely to be a spot in the halves, while perhaps the most intriguing is newcomer Lachie Miller.

An Australian Rugby Sevens representative at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Miller is extremely athletic, has skill and speed to burn and although finding his feet again in rugby league after spending the past few years in the rival code, could emerge as a contender for the role as the season progresses.

It wouldn’t be the preference of the players or coach, although Sione Katoa and Ronaldo Mulitalo have performed the role previously, while two of the Sharks development list players in Jonaiah Lualua and Kade Dykes have come through the ranks spending time at fullback.

Dykes, just 19 years of age and the son of former Sharks star Adam, has unlimited potential and although he will most likely begin the year in the under-21 Jersey Flegg competition, he should get a shot at the Jets in the NSW Cup at some stage during the year and where his talents take him after that remains to be seen.

A standout in Kennedy, but a few options for the Sharks and coach Craig Fitzgibbon at fullback for the 2022 season.

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.