BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Nobody is going to remember the Cronulla Sharks edging out North Queensland on a chilly Thursday night in front of 6000 hearty souls. But the result could be a lightning bolt moment for Cronulla or it could be the proof that this Sharks era is dead.
There’s a few ways to look at Cronulla’s narrow 16-14 win over the battling Cowboys.
One way would be that the Sharkies were lucky as hell and looked like a shadow of their former selves. Yeah, they haven’t had their entire squad available throughout the season but you play the cards you’re dealt – just like every other side.
In the first half, they looked like a frustrated outfit. Too much rubbish, too many penalties and they refused to fight for the middle third. The Cowboys stormed them. In commentary, Channel Nine worried that gun speedster Bronson Xerri hadn’t had any ball.
Well… you earn the right to give Xerri the ball. You can’t be dominated in the ruck and expect to sing the ball out to your outside backs.
The crowd booed and jeered but it was all Cronulla’s doing.
John Morris’ side came out in the second stanza and got the job done… just.
Was this the turn of their season or was it a band-aid?
Coach Morris has clearly attempted to blood as many juniors as he can in 2019.
The Sharks have a bright future and it’s there, peering out through the long silhouettes of veterans hanging onto their contracts and their futures.
It’s an odd squad.
You have Paul Gallen, Josh Dugan, Josh Morris, Aaron Woods and Shaun Johnson. Throw the injured Matt Moylan in there too. None of which, Morris signed. And only one, Gallen, has been there for any amount of time.
Morris is trying to shape his own destiny by blooding the stars of tomorrow.
Xerri, Blayke Brailey, Briton Nikora, Braden Uele, Jack Williams, Billy Magoulias, Ronaldo Mulitalo and Kurt Capewell.
The future is there.
But the Sharks need to manage the old and the young.
“We haven’t been far off,” Morris said after the match referring to their five-match losing sequence.
The good teams jag one or two of those losses.
We will know pretty quickly if this gritty win means anything.
Cronulla host South Sydney next week.
A loss will then give Morris his first legitimate right of passage as an NRL coach.
What to do with all these big names?
And how do you look after the kids that are most obviously tomorrow’s superstars?
Another view would be that the Sharks, this version, will win enough games to make the finals.
But it’s tough.
In the next two weeks they play the Rabbitohs and the Penrith Panthers away.
Maybe Morris didn’t expect the job when he actually got it after Shane Flanagan’s dismissal.
But it’s obvious he has a plan.
It’s all about management now.
Young and old.