Ennis chat boosts Sharks
At first glance, Cronulla's decision to part ways with promising rookie hooker Michael Lichaa to pick up Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis seemed odd in many ways. But with a full pre-season at his new club, Ennis's teammates are full of praise for the veteran rake.
Lichaa, the 21-year-old Cronulla junior, is an undoubtedly talented young player. The type you could build a roster around. The type you look to lock down long term.
At 30, Ennis no doubt has some good years left in the tank but Cronulla were hardly short on strong leaders already with the likes of club captain Paul Gallen, and his fellow Kangaroos Luke Lewis, Andrew Fifita and Anthony Tupou all packing down in the scrum as well as veterans Michael Gordon, Jeff Robson and Chris Heighington also around to mentor young players.
But emerging from a horror year wrecked by injury and the ASADA investigation, with a new CEO and some new faces on the coaching staff, the Sharks saw something they liked in the Bulldogs skipper and some of the young faces at Cronulla say his recruitment has already borne dividends.
"It's been great; Michael Ennis, he's really stood out," Ennis's fellow new recruit, ex-Dragon Gerard Beale, told NRL.com ahead of the side's season opener against Canberra.
"You've also got Gal, Luke Lewis, all those senior players. For me it's been awesome. There's such a good culture now here."
Rookie sensation Valentine Holmes, listed to watch Sunday's game from an extended bench, was a first hand witness to the dramas of 2014 and said Ennis is a big part of the rejuvenated feeling at the club.
"It's been good [this year], they're all inspirational, you're always taking in everything that they say," he said of the senior men.
"Mick Ennis has been the big talker in the team and Gallen is awesome. Gal loves to lead by actions, so does Mick Ennis, but he's more of a good talker as well."
And that could be a big part of Ennis's appeal – where Gallen would prefer to lead by example, Ennis is always happy to do the talking as well. It doesn't hurt that he's come from a stable club that made the Grand Final last year.
"I think [Ennis] has taken the pressure off Gal and Lewy," reserve playmaker and former Dragon Kyle Stanley said.
"They had a rough trot towards the back end of last year. Mick Ennis is awesome for us, he knows what he's talking about and he's been around for a long time as well. He's been through a lot as well. He's definitely taking the leadership role seriously."
Halfback Jeff Robson added he was excited to play behind a forward pack that would have Ennis leading the way.
"I'm excited about playing some footy with him; he's a great player and he really steers the forwards around in the middle of the park really well," Robson said.
"That makes my job a lot easier, I'm really looking forward to playing with him."