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Cronulla Sharks hooker Jayden Brailey emerges from grand final crowd to Michael Ennis’ hot seat
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Jayden Brailey’s used to the cheap seats, if there is one for him at all.

From his days roaming the family hill at Southern Cross Group Stadium to sitting among the Sharks faithful at one end of the ground on that famous October night last year – “I made sure I was there” – Cronulla’s new No.9 has always comfortably fitted in as another face in the crowd. Hasn’t cared either.

But the case of just warming the seat for someone else as Michael Ennis’ successor? Someone who might not even be at the club yet? Brailey has put a premium on that seat as the Sharks watch the James Segeyaro-Leeds standoff with interest, Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan saying he would “consider” the ex-Penrith hooker if he can get a release.

“There’s always going to be someone at the club trying to get your position – whether it be Segeyaro or anyone [else] – and I just try to focus on my own game and improving,” said Brailey, who made his debut in the Sharks’ season-opening loss to the Broncos on Thursday night.

 

“I set goals at the start of the year and that was my goal to debut this year. I saw the recent trials as an opportunity to show what I can do. I think I was a bit further down the line for the No.9, but I felt like I stepped up in those trials.”

Cronulla drafted in hooking options Daniel Mortimer and Manaia Cherrington after Ennis’ retirement, but has plumped – at least for now – with a kid raised just down the road.

His parents have been long-time season ticket holders and younger brother Blayke trained with the NRL squad during the summer, considered an emerging prospect for the Sharks, who only had to dive into an ANZ Stadium bay to find Ennis’ replacement last year.

“I was sitting behind the goalposts and that gave me goosebumps watching that game as the boys were making history,” Brailey said. “Now to be a part of that team is unbelievable.

“[Ennis] usually runs a couple of drills [at training], hangs around me at the end and goes through some individual things I might not be so good at. Even his individual advice at training – he’ll pull me aside in between drills and give me feedback what I should be doing a bit better.

“He’s been a big influence this pre-season and when he was playing I watched him very closely and I thought he was an outstanding player.”

Which is exactly what many good judges are expecting Brailey to become after Andrew Ettingshausen presented the Holden Cup Player of the Year with his jersey before his NRL debut.

“It gave me goosebumps getting that jersey,” Brailey said. “Being a local junior this has been my dream for as long as I can remember. This is just crazy and I really cherished everything that happened [on Thursday night].”​

 

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