Townsend keeps his cool amid halves merry-go-round
Spare a thought for Cronulla Sharks halfback Chad Townsend. His off-season has been spine-tingling to say the least.
After signing a three-year contract extension in April, he learned in October his halves partner James Maloney was on his way out. By November he heard the Sharks were chasing NSW No.7 Mitchell Pearce, which meant his own job could be in jeopardy. (Pearce eventually opted to join the Newcastle Knights instead.)
Rather than book a padded cell to try and map out what his future might hold, he remained calm and continued to train as hard as normal.
"I haven't really thought a whole lot about it. As a player I can't control who the club signs or talks to," Townsend told NRL.com.
"I can control my training and my preparation. That's my sole focus. I couldn't control if Jimmy was to stay or leave. I couldn't control if Mitchell Pearce was to come or go."
But he did pick up the phone and seek a catch-up with coach Shane Flanagan.
"We spoke openly about the possibility of Mitchell coming. He was open and transparent about the idea. He spoke about the possibilities of what would happen if he was to come," the Yarrawarrah Tigers junior said.
"The process was always open. I felt no dramas there at all. I was fully aware of the whole situation. I felt (Pearce) would have been a good fit for us but it wasn't what happened. But in saying that we still have a very good squad here. I'm very happy where we're at."
But he will miss Maloney, who has signed a three-year deal with the Penrith Panthers. So will the Sharks since Maloney topped the club's try assists in 2017 with 12, and was the NRL's seventh highest pointscorer with 161 from four tries, 71 goals and three field goals.
"I wish Jimmy all the best with his next role in his career," Townsend said.
"I had a really good time playing alongside him for two years. I learned a lot. Winning the comp together means we share a bond forever.
"I'm also excited about Matt (Moylan) coming in. I feel he'll add excitement and bring points to our attack. We've had our first sessions together and we worked on timing off each other and some combination plays. It's been really good. I'm excited what he'll bring to our team."
The pair of 26-year-olds have crossed paths their whole lives.
"We seem to have played against each other our whole careers back from Harold Matthews Cup (under-16s) right the way through the 20s, reserve grade and now first grade," Townsend said.
"The first time I actually played with Matt was in this year's City Origin game in Mudgee. I got on with him really well and enjoyed that week with him. Now that he's here and into the halves I'm looking forward building that combination."
The other combo Townsend is seeking to intensify is with another local junior in 21-year-old hooker Jayden Brailey.
Townsend is keenly aware of what a strong No.9 and No.7 can do for a club's premiership chances – think Kerrod Walters and Allan Langer at Brisbane in the early 1990s, Danny Buderus and Andrew Johns at the Newcastle Knights in 2001 and the Cameron Smith-Cooper Cronk duo which served the Melbourne Storm so well for more than a decade.
"It was Jayden's first year and I thought it was an extremely good one. The next step he'll take is a bit more seniority around the team, a bit more control around the ruck," Townsend said.
"As you see with the top No.9s in the competition they really control the flow of the game alongside their halves. For him it's about a bit more talk and communication from dummy-half. We've been working on that really hard the last few weeks and trying to get better together and form a better combination.
"We want to make sure we're on the same page. It's exciting to work with him."