Cronulla Sharks face NRL hooking crisis

They began the NRL season with four hooking prospects, but Cronulla will enter next Saturday’s clash with the Sydney Roosters without a recognised No.9.

Jayden Brailey was the last dummy-half to go down for the defending premiers in Sunday’s 35-18 loss to Manly, rushed to hospital with a likely broken jaw.

The Sharks are also still waiting on James Segeyaro to return from an arm injury in round 19, while they released former Kiwi squad member Manaia Cherrington to the Warriors earlier this month.

He’ll be followed out the exit door by veteran play-making utility Daniel Mortimer this week, after coach Shane Flanagan confirmed he had signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Leigh Centurions in the English Super League.

“He’s getting to that point of his career where he’s got an opportunity to head there for two-and-a-half years over there, and we’re giving him that opportunity to take it up,” Flanagan said.

“We’ll battle on, we’ve got a plan. We’ll be okay.”

It leaves Cronulla without an available player in their squad who has started a game at No.9.

The most likely option will see back-up half Fa’amanu Brown play hooker, while back-rower Joseph Paulo could spend time at dummy-half off the bench.

Jayden’s younger brother, Blayke, has starred in the under-20s for the first-placed Sharks, but at age 18 would likely be considered too inexperienced. The club’s 28-year-old reserve grade hooker, Kurt Kara, has also never played first grade.

Meanwhile coach Flanagan said he had no regrets over his decision not to rest any of his five Origin stars on Sunday, despite the Sharks failing to reach a high level of intensity in the 17-point drubbing at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

But it didn’t mean he was impressed with their performances.

“The score probably indicates how they handled their back up,” Flanagan said.

“They all wanted to play. There were no players carrying little niggles. If they were carrying little niggles I would’ve rested them, but that’s not an excuse for us today.”

Wade Graham was a lone standout, running 165 metres, while Andrew Fifita failed to reach three figures in the category for the first time at club level this season.