The desire to reach the next level as a player is what drove Matt Moylan to make the move to the shire.
And, preparing to face a daunting first NRL appearance for Cronulla when they travel to Townsville to face North Queensland in round one, Moylan is confident he has joined a potentially premiership-winning club.
If the prospect of one of the most formidable away days of the season first up wasn’t tough enough, the added drama of Johnathan Thurston’s return from a season-ending injury for his 300th NRL game as well as the return of Matt Scott will ensure a hostile atmosphere for the Sharks.
“JT’s 300th, Matt Scott back, they’re going to have plenty to play for,” Moylan said.
“Everyone’s keen to play round one so it’s going to be a hard one but [we’re] looking forward to it. You don’t want to start the season any other way, every game is going to be hard. We get that one to kick off our season so hopefully we can get up there and play some good footy.”
Good footy is what Moylan has played in Cronulla’s trials so far, despite needing to manage a knee problem, highlighted by his 40 minute performance against the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown.
The 26-year-old’s addition to the squad from Penrith, with James Maloney heading in the opposite direction, has forced a tweak to Cronulla’s playing style. Halfback Chad Townsend will take the bulk of responsibility to steer the team around the park, with Moylan able to inject himself in more of an ad lib style.
It was a meeting with Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and the club’s head of performance Andrew Gray that convinced Moylan to join Cronulla after they outlined their vision for the future.
“The way they sort of spoke to us and where they were heading was really appealing to me,” Moylan said.
“I thought I could develop as a player here and get to that next level and improve as a player. [I’m] just hoping to do that this year.
“I’ve found [Flanagan] really good. He makes it clear what he wants out of me and my role so that suits me. [He] gives me things that I need to focus on to keep improving which has been good throughout the pre-season. [I’m] still trying to do that now.
“I guess I always just go out there and try to play a natural game that comes to me within the game plan that we’ve got and the structure. But in saying that we’ve got a good forward pack to get us on the front foot and Chaddy leads us around well so it allows me to play a bit more freely. I’ve just got to make sure I’m taking the right options for the team and doing the right thing and make sure I’m on top of my role.”
The addition of Moylan and incumbent Test centre Josh Dugan has mitigated Cronulla’s losses of 2016 premiership winners Maloney and Jack Bird. Added to the new-look spine of Moylan, Townsend, Valentine Holmes and young gun Jayden Brailey and one of the best forward packs in the competition, the Sharks are likely to be in premiership calculations again.
Playing in a such a strong team could also bring out Moylan’s best football, and the chance to return to the representative arena. And having overcome the hamstring trouble of last season, plus the change in lifestyle, Moylan is likely to be playing with a smile on his face.
“[Cronulla have] always been a hard side to beat, especially over the last few years they’ve been playing some good footy,” Moylan said.
“That side is always appealing as well. In saying that we’ve got to go out and play some good footy as well but that made the decision to come down here a bit easier as well.
“I got a taste of [representative football] and I’d love to get an opportunity to play more of that. [It’s an] old cliche saying you’ve got to play good at club land first. I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest, about getting back there. I haven’t played footy for a while so I just want to get out there, make sure I start the year well doing my role for the team and if I’m playing well enough I’ll be in the conversation for that. But I’m just focusing on here and enjoying my job at the moment.
“I’m really enjoying it down here. It’s good, it’s handy having the beach just down the road. Can’t complain about that. You feel like you’re always out doing something outdoors, [it’s] sort of the lifestyle down here. I’m really enjoying it.”