When Jayden Brailey went down with a broken jaw against Manly many said Cronulla were in a hooking crisis.
With Daniel Mortimer released to join English club Leigh in the Super League, Manaia Cherrington released to join the Warriors last month and James Segeyaro unavailable until Saturday night’s clash with the Gold Coast at the earliest, Cronulla’s four options to play hooker at the start of the season were all gone.
With Brailey undergoing surgery on his jaw broken in two places last week, it left Sharks coach Shane Flanagan with little choice but to throw in Fa’amanu Brown against the Sydney Roosters.
Crisis? What crisis?
Despite little experience in the position, Brown warmed to his new role, helping Cronulla thrash the Roosters in Gosford to get their top four push back on track. Brown’s performance also underlined the incredible depth in the Sharks’ squad assembled by Flanagan.
With Segeyaro a possibility to make his return from a broken arm against the Titans, Brown may face an uphill battle to retain his place long term. But the 22-year-old told the Leader he wanted to make the best of the opportunity.
“Each week through the 17 it’s tough to get in there. You can see some of the boys in the middle losing their spot,” he said.
“So each week all of us try to challenge each other and that’s the best thing about this club. We love to challenge each other. And hopefully I can sustain my spot there.
“It was unfortunate for Brails. It’s a tough injury to overcome. But I’m excited to have this opportunity.”
He may be a couple of years older but Brown, who will join Canterbury next season on a two-year deal, freely admits he has learned plenty from the young gun he has replaced, Brailey.
“This whole year I’ve just tried to learn off young Brails and Michael Ennis last year. And with the halves as well. Just trying to bide my time and here I am,” Brown said.
“For me I’ve never really been a hooker coming through the system. I’ve always been halfback. But Jayden’s been playing there for a few years in the 20s and done an outstanding job there. Especially winning the Holden Cup player of the year. I’ve actually had to learn off him all the hooker roles.
“I guess I’m quite lucky because I’ve got a bigger frame than a lot of other hookers. I can hold myself up in the middle physically.”
Cronulla’s big win over the Roosters saw the Sharks slip back past Manly into second place on for and against but will sniff an opportunity to solidify their top four place in the next month.
The Sharks play the Titans, South Sydney, the Warriors and Canberra, all teams struggling outside the top eight.