Brown turns to rookie for advice
Fill-in hooker Cronulla Sharks Fa'amanu Brown is ready to embrace the challenge of his first NRL start in the No.9 jersey, revealing he has called on younger teammate Jayden Brailey for some tips on how to handle the unfamiliar role.
The 22-year-old is the last man starting at the Sharks with hooking options Brailey (jaw), James Segeyaro (arm) and Daniel Mortimer and Manaia Cherrington (mid-season releases) all suddenly unavailable.
Brown has deputised at dummy-half in the past but has spent the majority of his 18 NRL appearances in the halves, including two appearances at five-eighth earlier in the year as cover for James Maloney during State of Origin.
The Bulldogs-bound playmaker is relishing the opportunity to play in the middle this week – a position he shared with Brailey in the World Club Challenge – and is confident his bigger body will be well suited to the rigours of the midfield grind.
"This whole year I've been trying to learn off young 'Brails', and especially with Michael Ennis last year and especially with the halves as well. I've been trying to bide my time and here I am so hopefully I can take it with both hands," Brown said.
"I've never really been a hooker coming through the system – I've always been a halfback – but Jayden has been playing there for a few years in the 20s and has done an outstanding job there, especially being named Holden Cup player of the year. I've had to learn off him with the two steps and all the hooker's roles.
"I actually played [hooker] in the Club Challenge, but for this week I'm going to try to push myself for longer minutes. I think that's the test because if it's somewhere where I want to play in the future then I need to push myself to play those longer minutes.
"I guess I'm quite lucky because I've got a bit of size and a bigger frame than the majority of the other hookers so I feel like I can hold myself up in the middle physically."
There won't be much time for Brown to settle into the new role with the Sharks desperate to turn around the poor starts that have plagued them all season.
The defending premiers have been able to steady the ship with some gritty come-from-behind victories in 2017 but were found out by the Sea Eagles who jumped out to an 18-0 lead last Sunday en route to a 35-18 win at Shark Park.
It's an area they desperately need to address ahead of this weekend's clash against the fast-starting Roosters, with back-rower Wade Graham happy to take any advice leading into Saturday's crunch showdown.
"If you've got any suggestions [on how to arrest our slow starts] we're open for it," Graham joked.
"We spoke about it and it's one of those things that's letting us down and putting pressure on ourselves. We need to address it because that loss was probably coming.
"We've given teams a lot of head starts and managed to mow them down and come away with the result, but eventually it's going to catch up with you in this competition and that's what happened on the weekend.
"It was probably our worst statistical game that I've been a part of from recent memory or at least the last 18 months."