Be our Valentine: Morris urging Johnson to spark the Sharks

Sharks coach John Morris is looking to Shaun Johnson to fill the void left by Valentine Holmes (inset). Picture: John Veage
Sharks coach John Morris is looking to Shaun Johnson to fill the void left by Valentine Holmes (inset). Picture: John Veage

Shaun Johnson can provide the X-factor Cronulla lost when Valentine Holmes walked out on the club to try his hand at the NFL, according to Sharks coach John Morris.

Johnson will play his first game for the Sharks against Newcastle on Friday night, after he was released by the Warriors in an ugly split at the end of last year.

His pick-up couldn't have come at a better time for Cronulla, who lost their biggest attacking weapon in Holmes last November

Holmes led the Sharks last season for tries, linebreaks, tackle busts and running metres, hitting his best just as Cronulla made a run to the preliminary final.

"I think what he brings to the side is a bit of X-factor which we lost with Val," Morris said of Johnson.

"(I'll tell him) just to get into the game and get his hands on the ball, take the line on and guide the boys around the park.

"He's the perfect pick-up for us because he allows Matty (Moylan) to go back to fullback and both have that unstructured style of footy."

Centre stage: Sharks star recruit Shaun Johnson. Picture: John Veage

Centre stage: Sharks star recruit Shaun Johnson. Picture: John Veage

Called on to do the organising for much of his Warriors career, Johnson will be freed up in the No.6 jersey with Chad Townsend maintaining control of the Sharks' attack.

The pair have already played together in two seasons at the Warriors, winning 18 of 34 games alongside each other when Townsend was a far less experienced first-grader.

Meanwhile, new coach Morris will debut two of his former under-20 players in Blayke Brailey and second-rower Briton Nikora on Friday night.

"He's ready," Morris said when asked about Brailey.

"He's done everything in the game, he's a junior Roo, he's come right through our system as a local junior since Harold Matts "He's a great kid, he's exactly like (his brother) Jayden. Very coachable and works very hard on his game every training session.

"He's going to be very capable to fill that spot (against Newcastle) and I'm stoked to be able to hand that jersey to him."

AAP