Former Eels halfback Jeff Robson may find himself in the surprise new role of back-up hooker as coach Shane Flanagan contemplates an overflowing depth in the Sharks’ halves in 2012.
Todd Carney’s belated arrival at the Shire has had a domino effect on the Cronulla playing roster, with Flanagan confirming he will look at using playmaker Robson as support for newly signed No.9 Isaac De Gois.
Flanagan explained it would be tough for him to ask Wade Graham to hand up the No.7 jersey after he excelled in the role towards the end of last season.
“Wade Graham was my best player last year so if I have to pick a team today Wade Graham in there somewhere,” Flanagan told NRL.com today.
“I think my plan is that Jeff Robson is back-up No.9 for us – I’ve always seen ‘Robbo’ as a really good No.7 or No.9.”
Robson would join De Gois, Paul Aiton and John Morris as hooker rotation options.
“In saying that, we have an abundance in the No.9, so we are pretty well-served in those areas – so I guess they’ll just have to fight it out, which is a good situation to be in,” Flanagan said.
Meanwhile Albert Kelly, who the club signaled their faith in with a new three-year deal last May, could be left to watch on from the sidelines during the early stages of 2012 as Carney slips into the No.6 jersey he had hoped to make his own.
Although 20-year-old Kelly kicked off his NRL career at fullback it’s unlikely he’ll end up there in the immediate future – dynamic runner Nathan Gardner has seemingly nailed down that position following his series of dominant performances in 2011.
Five-eighth or halfback would seem Kelly’s only options.
“I think Albert’s best position is five-eighth – Albert is not a real good organiser or a real good talker, so probably his best position is No.6,” Flanagan said.
Injured fullback Gardner was scheduled to have a pin removed from his troublesome ankle this week and won’t resume training for six more weeks.
“He is a little behind the eight ball,” Flanagan confirmed. “We’re hoping he is going to be alright for the start of the season but in saying that we’ve got Isaac Gordon and Albert still thinks he can play fullback.”
Flanagan said he was excited at the prospect of Todd Carney making his presence felt in the starting line-up, although with so many individuals vying for positions in the halves he said it was up to the players to make the positions their own.
“Todd can play fullback… he can play half… he can play five-eighth, so he has got some versatility there – but I have got to have Wade in there as well,” he said.
“I think Albert’s best position is 6 and Todd can play 6 or 7, so I just have to get that mix right. Wade can play 7… Wade can play 6… Wade can play 13,” he added cryptically.
Flanagan said he was aware the unit needed to strike good continuity early in the season.
“My word – it’s going to be a really important off-season for us. Obviously I have got to find out a little bit about how they all mix together, who strikes up the combinations… it is going to be really interesting.
“It’s the best roster we’ve had for a while – I’m really excited about it.”