Gray hoping for more pre-season action with Cronulla
Despite standing outside the Southern Cross Group Stadium dressing rooms with a large ice pack on his right knee, Cronulla recruit Aaron Gray is hoping coach Shane Flanagan picks him for the Sharks next trial match.
Gray, who had clean-out surgery on his knee late last year, said the ice and strapping was just a precaution.
There was nothing tentative in his first outing in Cronulla colours on Saturday night against Manly following three Telstra Premiership seasons with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Gray had his wish of playing in the centres granted. He played in that position for the majority of his under 20 career but was more regularly seen on the wing for the Rabbitohs in the top grade.
"It was good to get a bit more ball and do a bit of defending," Gray told NRL.com after the Sharks rattled off six tries in their 30-14 win over the Sea Eagles.
"It was a good hit-out so hopefully if Flanno [Flanagan] needs me next week I'll be in that team and ready to go."
Despite the fact he did some good things against Manly, there are two stumbling blocks for Gray.
They are World Cup Test players Ricky Leutele (Samoa) and Josh Dugan (Australia), who were rested by Flanagan against the Sea Eagles but are expected to be in the mix to face the Wests Tigers on Saturday in Campbelltown.
Gray says he's up for the fight.
"A hundred percent I want to be there [v Tigers] but whether I get to play or not is up to Flanno. I'll just do anything for the team and keep having a go," Gray said, not willing to concede a backline spot just yet.
Of the 17 tries he scored in 42 games with South Sydney, Gray scored 12 as winger. He's adept to either centre or wing and doesn't mind which side of the field he plays on.
"Doesn't bother me. I just want to be there," he said.
"I just wanted to chuck that Sharks' blue jersey on tonight and get out there. I've been thinking about it all pre-season.
"I've got through my first match injury-free and it was great fun."
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Playing regularly in the NRL the main goal for the Mascot Jets junior. He played just nine in 2017.
Gray feels he just needs the chance to show what he can do. He demonstrated this talent when deemed "a bolter" in the 2016 City Origin side to play Country in Tamworth.
He scored four tries in the 44-30 victory, with City coach Brad Fittler immediately vindicated in picking someone in only their second year of NRL.
But right now, Gray will be content to keep plugging away – at least the hard sessions of fitness and drills in the summer sun are over.
"It was just good to get out there. Pre-season and training is finally done," Gray said.
"We get to finally get on the park and play some footy, which is what we all want to do.
"The boys played alright. We know there's a lot of improvement to do but it's very exciting. We started a little slow but once everyone got a bit of ball in hand, we looked pretty good.
"Everyone felt fit out there and I felt really fit, so preseason training has obviously paid off."