Sharks begin search for new No.1
Cronulla may be forced to begin their premiership defence with a makeshift fullback as a hamstring injury to Valentine Holmes in Saturday's trial loss to the Broncos threatens to disrupt the start to 2017.
With Ben Barba now having departed, the custodian role was going to fall to the talented Holmes, who recently committed himself to a further two years with the club.
Holmes suffered a grade two hamstring strain in the second half of Cronulla's 30-12 loss to Brisbane in Redcliffe on Saturday night and has been ruled out of the World Club Challenge in a fortnight's time against Super League powerhouse Wigan in England.
Coach Shane Flanagan stated that he could be sidelined for up to a month which would place him in severe doubt to start the season against Brisbane on March 2, leaving either Jack Bird or Gerard Beale to step into the breach.
Back-rower Chris Heighington was in Auckland with Cronulla's Nines squad over the weekend and conceded that having to fashion a new fullback so close to the start of the season has the potential to disrupt their preparations.
"Obviously it's a big role fullback now," Heighington told NRL.com.
"They've got a lot of talk to do behind the line and Benny was really good at it and Val's got to tell everyone where to go.
"He's got a big responsibility there and whoever plays fullback, it's just a massive part of the game now.
"Gerard Beale has played a bit of fullback. I'm not the coach so I don't know.
"Val's out for a while hopefully they get the right guy in."
In 50 games for the Sharks over the past two seasons, Beale has not once played fullback and despite talk that he was in line to wear the No.1 last season Bird is also yet to play fullback in his 49 career NRL games to date.