Ennis taking the heat off Sharks' halves
Veteran Sharks halfback Jeff Robson has credited teammate Michael Ennis for taking the heat away from him and halves partner Jack Bird in the middle of the paddock following their 18-16 win over the Bulldogs on Sunday.
With a statistic emerging through News Limited reports during the week that the Sharks have never won without Robson in his five seasons (1478 days) playing at the club, it's now fair to say the 151 NRL game journeyman's impact is being boosted now by the presence of Ennis.
Against the Bulldogs, Ennis came up with another two try assists to make it eight in his past four games in a sure-tell sign the Sharks' attacking plan is starting to revolve around the rake rather than their halves.
"He's been a great buy for the club. In his past month of footy he's been outstanding. He's been in everything and he's a niggler and a passionate bloke," Robson told NRL.com.
"Mick's definitely a great player to stand alongside. He has given us so much direction through the middle. He wants to play, and that shines through his leadership at the club.
"We have a young half in Birdy so he takes a lot of heat off both of us by getting out of dummy-half off the back of our good go-forward which we've had plenty of recently thanks to the success of our middle men."
Playing his first game against the Bulldogs since leaving Belmore at the end of last season, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan went on to add Ennis's performance was one which came from him being "on edge" in the lead-up.
"All week he was talking about playing and talking about his opposition He was better than Luke Lewis [when he played against Penrith] but all players are like that I suppose," Flanagan said post-game.
"He loves Canterbury – it holds a real special place in his heart and to come back here and play against them – he did a real good job in a quality performance."
Making a point of talking about the intimidation factor of the 19,000 strong crowd at Belmore Sports Ground in the week leading into Sunday's game, Robson said the Sharks wanted to avoid the early game onslaught Melbourne received at the ground just four weeks earlier.
While the Sharks made 20 errors, Robson made the point of being unconcerned considering they had completed the third-most sets before Round 20 competition-wide at a rate of 77 per cent.
"We really needed to get that win. It wasn't pretty but it was really good to get the win especially at such a place like Belmore. We knew they were going to turn up to play being back at their home crowd," Robson said.
"We spoke about [the Belmore intimidation factor] in the same light as making sure we were doing our job out there. Potentially we knew if we did that then we'd go a long way to winning the game.
"Obviously we made a lot of errors though so we were certainly lucky to get away with that win. We're not doing that badly though, I reckon it's just a one off. But definitely we can't do that against the Warriors next week because they'll put a lot of points on us."
In Robson-land, the former Eel and Sea Eagle said he remains in talks with Cronulla for a swansong 2016 season before he joins former Sharks hooker John Morris in the club's junior academy coaching ranks.