Cronulla’s players are on notice ahead of their derby with St George Illawarra – perform or you’re out.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has dropped 2016 premiership-winner Sosaia Feki for the clash with the Dragons after the winger made a pair of mistakes in fielding kicks that led to tries for the Roosters in last week’s 28-10 loss.
Edrick Lee gets his chance on the wing after a strong performance in his only first grade appearance of the season so far against Melbourne where he scored the only try in a 10-point win.
Josh Dugan also returns to the centres, forming a dangerous looking right side combination with Valentine Holmes as Matt Moylan and Trent Hodkinson retain their places at fullback and five-eighth respectively.
After an indifferent start that has left the Sharks in 11th place after two wins and three losses from their opening five matches, Flanagan has shown his ruthless side in dropping Feki and sent a message to the rest of his squad.
“They’re all hard decisions to make but [Feki] made a couple of errors last week. Uncharacteristic errors that led to two tries. In the end that was probably the difference,” he said.
“The bloke who comes in for him has actually played well in a couple of games he’s played this year and last weekend for reserve grade he was their best player.
“We’ve got a good squad here and I’ve always said to them we’ve got to trust and work really hard for each other because no one is given a spot here on reputation.
“And I feel sorry for Feki because he was part of our grand final team. But how long can you just keep hanging your hat on that? You’ve got to produce and perform each week and he falls into that category.”
The Sharks will hand an NRL debut to young prop Kurt Dillon, with the De La Salle Caringbah junior having finally cracked the top 17 after a string of matches as 18th man.
The 23-year-old former greenkeeper at Shark Park, who was Newtown’s player of the year in 2017 and was chosen in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW team of the year despite the Jets finishing well out of finals contention, gets his chance in the top grade with Flanagan planning to unleash him on the Dragons in Wollongong.
“He’s definitely deserved it. Probably a little bit overdue. But he gets his chance now and I know he’ll take it. He’s one of those kids that is so determined, he’s tough, he’s probably made for it,” he said.
“I know I’m going to get energy and passion. If anything I’m going to have to sit him down and reel him in a bit. He’s going to want to run out there in the first minute and rip a few people apart.
“He’ll have to sit down for a bit and come off the bench and get a feel for it but when he does go on there’ll be something happening. I’m excited for him, he’s come right through our junior system. A real quality kid whose worked real hard for everything he’s going to get.
“The qualities he’s got are being resilient and tough and never giving in. He had a dream of playing NRL and he’s just never given in. He’s not the most talented kid coming through the system, he just toils away in his position. That’s sometimes all you need, he’s not going to be flashy but he’s going to be physical, tough and passionate.”