The big problem facing the Cronulla Sharks

With the news that star youngster Jayden Brailey is injured, who do the Sharks turn to at dummy-half to keep their season alive?

Rookie hooker Jayden Brailey, a standout candidate for the NRL Rookie of the Year gong over the first 16 rounds, but with news surfacing that he has suffered a broken jaw during his side’s 35-18 loss to the high-flying Sea Eagles, the Sharks now face a crisis at the position.

Brailey busted up

The diagnosis is not good, with the young rake set to spend a long spell on the sidelines and he joins the growing list of hookers unavailable to fill the role with the club having just released Daniel Mortimer, who has linked up with English Super League side Leigh Centurions, as well as Manaia Cherrington who was granted a mid-season release to take up a deal with the New Zealand Warriors while star recruit James Segeyaro is continuing his recovery from a broken arm suffered back in round six and is at least another week away from full fitness.

The news comes at the worst possible time for the Sharks, with their replacement stocks at an all-time low and, given his form, Brailey poses a significant loss in his own right. The youngster had been a strong performer and slotted perfectly in to the gap left by the retiring Michael Ennis before this injury has curtailed his progress.

Looking ahead

While Brailey will be back as good as ever after his recovery, the immediate concern for the Sharks is who will line up at the hooker position this week when the Sharks travel up to the Gosford to take on the in-form Roosters at the Central Coast Stadium this Saturday afternoon.

The defending premiers have the bye in round 18, but for their clash with the Roosters the week before, it would appear likely that. Fa’amanu Brown is the logical next step for coach Shane Flanaghan to get through with the week though another option would be to elevate Blayke Brailey, brother of Jayden who has been in strong form for the Sharks in the Holden Cup so far in 2017.

The dreaded June 30

The crisis for the Sharks could not have come at a worse time and highlights the issues clubs face with the looming June 30 deadline, with under-used veterans and young players offered opportunities elsewhere, clubs can often not stand in their way, meaning a mid-season reshuffle of playing staff and a frenzy of transfers both here and abroad.

It is on the back of this that two capable replacements in Cherrington and Mortimer have found themselves either wearing the strip of a different club or travelling halfway around the world to take up a new opportunity and it is this that has created the double headache Shane Flanaghan now faces.

Adding to the problems faced by the Sharks and other clubs is the uncertainty surrounding the salary cap for 2018 for both the NRL and the second tier caps and how much wiggle room clubs will have in their finances, with many clubs forced to sign deals with players on good faith and leaving a few with the potential to exceed the cap, meaning another round of transfers could yet happen.

This issue is unlikely to be cleared up anytime soon, with the NRL and the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) locked in extended talks in a desperate attempt to reach agreement on the final cap figure and plenty of fingers being pointed at the management of the game.

Who do you think will play dummy-half for the Sharks this weekend? Let us know in the comments below.

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