Sharks halves can only improve: Flanagan
Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan is content with the early promise shown by new halves pairing Chad Townsend and Matt Moylan in their first trial together, while expressing surprise the latter managed to shoulder the former out of the way for goal-kicking duties.
The pair played the opening 40 minutes of Saturday night's 30-14 trial win over Manly at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Moylan brushed off a cold drop early on in attack to display some nice touches and popped up on both fringes in attack.
He easily slotted the opening conversion of the night from the right touch-line before swinging a slightly easier follow up attempt well to the left of the posts.
"That's what [the trial] was about, getting them to play in game conditions together and they did some nice things together," Flanagan said after the game.
"They made an error on their first set but they fixed that up and they're only going to get better. They both looked comfortable in their roles and they got our team around the park pretty well."
Asked about how the three-way goal-kicking duel between Townsend, Moylan and Valentine Holmes was progressing, Flanagan couldn't mask a smile.
"It was interesting to see who grabbed the kicking tee. I didn't say anything about who was going to kick so it was interesting to see who grabbed the kicking tee!" he said.
"I thought Chad would've grabbed the tee but Matty Moylan went and grabbed it, cheeky Penrith boy and went and kicked it. Chad's probably, percentage-wise, up to date at training just got his nose ahead but they're all very close."
New signing Trent Hodkinson partnered Flanagan's son Kyle in the halves for much of the second half and the back-up halves also displayed plenty of quality in a welcome sign for the club's playmaking depth.
"We've got some depth there now with Hokko. He's fit and healthy and training well," Flanagan said.
"We've got to do a bit of work with him to get him up to speed in our systems and what we want him to do defensively and a couple of the things we want him to do offensively as well, he has to think about it a fair bit because he's only been here a week but when that comes naturally he's going to be better for us. Kyle's just at the start of his career and he handled it pretty well I thought."
Overall, the Sharks looked the stronger side against a very much under-strength Manly line-up and Flanagan said it was mostly nice to blow the cobwebs out with no injury concerns.
"It's always good to see how your pre-season's been. We did some really good things and we did some things we need to tidy up so overall pretty pleased," he said.
"A few things around the ruck we didn't do properly, we didn't get off our line a lot of the time and sat back on our heels and let Manly come to us where we need to have some line speed.
"They scored two tries off kicks, last tackle kicks, we need to be better than that but we'll work really hard and we can fix that up."
Prompted about Moylan's heavily strapped knee, Flanagan added: "He had surgery on that knee in the off season and just keeping inflammation down, he'll be fine."