AS IF playing behind Todd Carney isn’t tough enough, Chad Townsend has to play with another ‘‘friend’’ in front of him — a constant reminder of his own fallibility in a rugged, body-contact sport.
Townsend proved one of the stars in his first NRL game of the season for the Sharks in their tough 22-12 victory over the Gold Coast Titans in wet conditions at Toyota Stadium.
He revealed later that he has to play with a sternum guard under his jumper for the rest of the season, after being helped off the field with a fractured sternum during a NSW Cup game for the Sharks more than two months ago.
‘‘It is more of a precautionary thing,’’ said the Yarrawarrah club junior of the guard.
‘‘But I still do feel some of the big hits.’’
Townsend, who played his last NRL game in round 22 of last season, set himself for this game knowing Carney would be out again, in camp with the NSW Blues, in advance of tomorrow night’s Origin II at ANZ Stadium.
‘‘Todd has been in amazing form, but I had to play my own game,’’ said Townsend, who played five-eighth alongside Jeff Robson. I was grateful to finally play.’’
Townsend and Robson controlled the game when things got close, turning the Titans around with judicious kicks.
With their Origin stars missing — the Sharks captain Paul Gallen and Todd Carney and the Titans’ Greg Bird, Ashley Harrison and Nate Myles — the game was never going to be a great spectacle after the big wet which drenched the Cronulla area on Sunday. And the late withdrawal of their own captain, half Scott Prince, gave the Sharks favouritism against a team gunning for their fourth straight victory.
The Sharks held a 10-0 lead early after Robson cleverly put ‘‘sleepy’’ Kiwi international Jeremy Smith over for the first try.