Shane Flanagan believes his squad are right where they need to be a month out from their first trial match of the new season.
Cronulla’s players have been sweating under the hot shire sun for most of pre-season as they tune up for their round one clash with North Queensland in Townsville on March 9.
Flanagan is likely to field a youthful squad for Cronulla’s first trial match against Manly at Southern Cross Group Stadium on February 17 before the Sharks travel to Campbelltown to meet the Wests Tigers a week later.
A number of the club’s highly rated younger players including Billy Magoulias, Blayke Brailey, Daniel Vasquez and Sione Katoa have been training with the first grade squad, with Katoa in the mix to start the season on the right wing outside Josh Dugan.
“I’m definitely happy with where we’re at. We haven’t had too many players miss a lot of training,” Flanagan told the Leader.
“The only one who we have that is going to push for [selection] in the early rounds is Andrew Fifita. He hasn’t been on the field but he’s been doing a lot of work back in the gym. But he’ll get a trial against Wests Tigers.
“So I expect everyone to play and everyone to be available for round one which is a good thing. The surgeries that we had weren’t major. We’ve had Andrew, Ava [Seumanufagai] had surgery on a finger. Wade [Graham] had surgery on a finger. That put them back a little bit but they’ll all be ready to play a trial.
“I just won’t play some of the bigger boys [against the Tigers]. They probably only need one trial. The one closer [to round one] is probably the better [trial] for me. I’ll probably play [Matt] Moylan but probably half a dozen to a dozen won’t play. And it’ll give a good opportunity to those boys who have trained the whole summer.”
Seumanufagai is one of a number of new faces in Cronulla’s squad as well as big name recruits Dugan and Moylan.
Flanagan was pleased with the way Moylan in particular had taken to his new surroundings. Moylan will start the season at five-eighth replacing the Penrith-bound James Maloney. A Moylan-Chad Townsend halves pairing along with Dugan at right centre and Valentine Holmes at fullback has Flanagan excited for 2018.
“Duges is sort of just finding his feet but he’s training really well. Matty has been fantastic. He’s going to add something really exciting,” Flanagan said.
“We’ve been known as a defensive team over the last couple of years but when you throw Dugan and Moylan in our team we’re going to be able to score some points.”