Cronulla's impressive showing at the Auckland Nines has been dampened by news that utility Fa'amanu Brown's will likely miss most of the season after tearing his ACL in the tournament.
The prodigious 20-year-old was attacking the line when he went down innocuously in the Sharks' semi-final victory over the Roosters. At the time the club thought it was a minor scare and said he was a chance to play in the final against the South Sydney.
But Brown missed the final and scans on Monday confirmed the worst.
"It's never good, that sort of stuff. What can you really say? We'll hope for the best. I was just watching him when he stepped and when you see a bloke go down untouched, it's usually not a good sign," said Nines captain Wade Graham.
The De La Salle product played 11 games in his rookie season, quickly establishing himself as a rising talent and was this year expected to compete with Jeff Robson and new recruit Ben Barba for playing time in the halves.
"He's an up and coming player. He got a lot of first-grade games last year in tough circumstances and he would've been looking to hopefully put his best foot forward in a more positive team and a better environment," Graham said.
"It's one of those things, what can you say but wish him good luck."
After going down to the Rabbitohs in the final, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan chose not to blame the pre-season tournament for the major loss of his young playmaker and said Brown remained in positive spirits.
"That's really bad news for Nu. Surprisingly he's got a really good attitude about it. He understands that it's rugby league," Flanagan said.
"It's not related to the Nines. It could've happened at training. It could've happened in a trial next week. It's disappointing for Nu, he was going really well. And I know Michael Ennis rang him straight away and spoke to him on the phone. He'll be back in four or five months; better than ever."
While the news on Brown was disappointing, the Sharks would have been pleased with the breakout performance of new recruit Jack Bird. The former Dragons youngster was arguably Cronulla's best over the weekend, and the 19-year-old centre hopes his new coach took notice.
"There's a lot of good players there with [Gerard] Beale, Ricky Leutele, [Blake] Ayshford. Playing in this, I'm a step in the door in front of all the other boys back at home," Bird said.
"But hopefully I did impress Flanno enough to put me in the starting team. If not, I've just gotta keep working hard."