Cronulla Sharks local juniors Scott Sorensen, Chad Townsend and Jayden Brailey one game away from grand final

Local boys: Sharks juniors Scott Sorensen, Chad Townsend and Jayden Brailey are one game away from an NRL grand final with Cronulla. Picture: Chris Lane
Local boys: Sharks juniors Scott Sorensen, Chad Townsend and Jayden Brailey are one game away from an NRL grand final with Cronulla. Picture: Chris Lane

It is a special time of year in the shire.

The sun is shining, the waves are rolling in and Cronulla are just one win away from a second grand final appearance in three years.

But for Scott Sorensen, Chad Townsend and Jayden Brailey it may be one of the most special times of their careers.

The Sharks travel to Melbourne to face the Storm on Friday night in a preliminary final and, after waiting 50 years for one premiership, Cronulla are now almost within touching distance of a second.

And Cronulla’s trio of local juniors are ready to lead the charge.

Yarrawarrah Tigers junior Townsend is the last remaining member of Cronulla’s successful 2016 title-winning spine and was the best player on the park in the Sharks’ epic 21-20 elimination semi-final win over Penrith.

At just 22-years-old, Aquinas Colts product Brailey is looking like one of the most assured hookers in the competition. Thrown in at the deep end by Sharks coach Shane Flanagan last season, Brailey has added to his already impressive defensive displays by becoming a force in attack from dummy half.

Brailey will take on his childhood idol, Storm legend Cameron Smith. But despite the Storm’s reputation as the NRL’s benchmark side, Brailey said Cronulla would head to Melbourne full of confidence.

“No fear, no way. But in saying that Melbourne are going to know about [our good] record,” he said. 

“[I’m] buzzing. It’s crazy. It’s definitely something dreams are made of, that’s for sure. If we can get that win I don’t know what I’ll do to be honest. I’ll be so excited. I just can't put it into words. 

“But in saying that we’ve got to start again, recover and prepare well. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves.

“They’re going to be turning up, that’s for sure. We said in the sheds we’ve got to be better than we were against Penrith. Although we started well, that second half let us down and you can’t do that against Melbourne because they won’t let you give up that lead [and still win].”

Sorensen, a Cronulla Caringbah junior, has finally found the home in the NRL that he has always dreamed of. The 25-year-old back-rower’s role in the team has become even more important with the loss of Wade Graham to a season-ending knee injury.

Cronulla have an excellent recent record against the Storm compared to most teams having won five of their last seven encounters including their last two visits to Melbourne.

But Sorensen said that will count for little come Friday.

“I can’t wait. I’m really excited. I’ll get all the bumps and bruises fixed up and go down to Melbourne and can’t wait to get on the plane,” he said.

“We’ve spoken and been asked a number of times on versing Penrith this year and all the results prior to [that game] were irrelevant and just got on with it. And that’ll be the exact same with Melbourne.”

All three have deep connections with the shire as well as family ties at the club.

Townsend and Sorensen are brothers-in-law, while Brailey’s young brother Blayke is also contracted to the Sharks and will play for partner club Newtown in the Intrust Super Premiership grand final against Canterbury at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.  

His father, Glenn, is also an elite pathways coach with the Sharks Academy.

Sharks captain Paul Gallen and star outside back Josh Dugan are still rated as 50-50 chances to take on Melbourne with both battling shoulder problems.

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