Cronulla have signed their first player since releasing Ben Barba, stealing Canberra winger Edrick Lee a week before their NRL season-opener.
The reigning premiers announced on Thursday that Lee had secured a release from the final year of his contract with the Raiders to sign a two-year deal with the Sharks.
“I’m really excited to be joining the club, I can’t wait for this year and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Lee said.
“I’m looking forward to meeting all the players and staff (but) I know there’s a lot of hard work that has to be done between now and round one.”
Lee’s arrivals comes less than a month after Barba’s inglorious divorce from the Sharks, forcing Valentine Holmes to fullback and leaving a gaping hole on the wing.
Grand-final winner Sosaia Feki is expected to start on one wing, while Lee is likely to be an aerial threat on the other edge ahead of the versatile Gerard Beale.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan described Lee as a major threat in attack.
“He’s a proven finisher who gives us height and a kick target and a point of difference out on the wing,” Flanagan said.
“With the loss of Benny and with some potential changes in position for Val and others he has a great opportunity to be a part of our NRL side this season.”
Meanwhile, Lee’s exit from the nation’s capital has opened up a spot for promising teenager Nick Cotric to debut on the wing in their first game of the season.
English recruit Jordan Turner shapes as the man to start in the centres in the absence of injured skipper Jarrod Croker until his slated return in round five.
“With a restricting salary cap and a large amount of players coming off contract, we’ve been forced to make a tough and sad decision to release Edrick in order to be able to re-sign a large group of our NRL squad for the future,” Raiders boss Don Furner said.
“Edrick is a special player who began his career as a junior of the club and he’ll always be welcome back at the Raiders.”