Townsend backs Sharks' depth to cover horror injury toll
Premiership-winning halfback Chad Townsend cannot remember such a lengthy injury list coming out of one game but is confident Cronulla have enough troops waiting in the wings.
The Sharks were decimated by injuries to their pack in Friday night's 40-20 loss to the Dragons, with four current or former NSW Origin players all failing to complete the game.
"I've never experienced a match like that before in terms of people going down around me," Townsend told NRL.com as Sharks players limped, or walked gingerly, out of the WIN Stadium dressing rooms after the game.
"It's never a good time when you don't finish with anyone on the bench.
"For us we've just got to get on with it, even though we've potentially lost some of our biggest-name players."
With injuries to the knees of skipper Paul Gallen, prop Andrew Fifita, back-rower Luke Lewis and the left hamstring of Wade Graham, the Sharks will need all hands on deck for next Sunday's round seven duel with Penrith.
Cronulla's feeder club from the Intrust Super Premiership NSW competition is the Newtown Jets, and Sharks coach Shane Flanagan will consult Newton counterpart Greg Matterson on possible personnel to be called up into the Telstra Premiership side.
"Braden Uele is a front-rower and he's been playing some good footy along with Scott Sorensen in reserve grade," Townsend said.
"We've got a bit of depth, but obviously if our starters are out we're going to be tested. The other side of that is we have full confidence in those players to come up into first grade and do a job."
Uele, 19, played trial games for the Sharks in February after making his NRL debut with North Queensland last year. He has the size to impress - 191cm, 115kg - and has good footwork.
Sorensen, 25, is a distant cousin of the former Kiwis internationals and Cronulla stalwarts in the late 1970s and early 80s, Kurt and Dane Sorensen. He has played five NRL games for Cronulla and returned this season after spending 2017 with the Raiders.
Then there's 23-year-old prop Kurt Dillon, who made his NRL debut on Friday and wants more of the action.
The off-season addition of Ava Seumanufagai has brought dividends, with the former Tigers prop playing all six games off the bench alongside back-rower Joseph Paulo. The pair boast a collective 260 NRL games.
Then there is rising back-rower/utility player Kurt Capewell, who made his debut in the club's 2016 premiership-winning season and has played all six rounds in 2018.
Another promising prospect from Intrust Super Premiership is lock Billy Magoulis - a former NSW under 20 player who has come through the Sharks juniors system and played in the NRL trials this year.
While the coaches mull over the talent available, Townsend is awaiting the onslaught of text messages from his partner in crime in the 2016 grand final win over Melbourne, James Maloney.
The 31-year-old did a swap with Matt Moylan in the off-season and joined the Panthers.
"Texting hasn't started but it will," Townsend said.
"I did speak to him the other week as he wished me all the best after the birth of my little girl. I had a quick chat to him and he told me he's really enjoying it out there.
"He's known to use a bit of tongue-in-cheek on the field so there's no doubt there'll be a bit of that but it's all fun and games."
Townsend has faced Maloney before in a foreign jersey. The pair came up against each other when Maloney was with the Sydney Roosters, where he also helped win a premiership in 2013.
"It's a little easier this time because obviously playing with him for a couple of years at the Sharks you do know his strengths and weaknesses," Townsend said.
"We have to use that to our advantage as he's in an opposition team now. We have to make sure we exploit his weaknesses when required."