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Sharks sign Macdonald but Hiroti gets first crack at wing berth

With depleted stocks out wide, Cronulla have turned to journeyman Nene Macdonald to plug the gap but coach John Morris has full faith in club debutant Mawene Hiroti to do the job on Sunday.

With Josh Morris released to the Roosters before Bronson Xerri's provisional drugs suspension, winger Ronaldo Mulitalo suffered a knee injury which an arthroscopy this week revealed will require a four-week lay-off.

Hiroti, a former Rabbitoh, will make his club debut against the winless Dragons on Sunday night while Macdonald - who has played for the Roosters, Titans, Dragons and Cowboys, will need three to four weeks to get his training intensity up before being thrown into an NRL match, according to Morris.

"We've secured Nene so that's exciting news," Morris said on Saturday.

"Losing Josh Morris at the start of the year, releasing him and then the Bronson situation has left us pretty short in the outside backs.

Sharks winger Mawene Hiroti.
Sharks winger Mawene Hiroti. ©NRL Photos

"On the weekend we lost Ronaldo Mulitalo with a knee injury, he had an arthroscope and is looking at at least four weeks out so we're down three NRL outside backs."

Macdonald suffered a horror ankle injury playing for the Cowboys in early 2019 in what proved to be his last game for the club. He eventually asked for a release after also being charged for a car accident while driving unlicensed.

"We're pretty thin there and Nene has shown some really good signs the last few months of getting his back life in order," Morris said of the 26-year-old PNG international.

"He's training really hard, he's in good nick, coming down for a second shot (at an NRL career).

"He brings some much-needed experience and a different body shape … we look forward to getting him up to match fitness over the next couple of weeks."

Sharks screening revealed Macdonald had kept himself in good shape while training on his own and his body weight and conditioning was not far away from where he was when playing regular NRL, according to Morris.

"That's the reason we chose to add him to our squad," he added. "He needs to get back to NRL intensity with his training, we're thinking three to four weeks maybe to make sure we cross the Ts and dot the Is and he's in good nick for the NRL environment but hopefully he joins us next week.

"Mawene's been a highly regarded junior coming through at South Sydney and someone I saw a number of years ago when I was doing our elite pathways.

"I saw him play Harold Matthews as a fullback and always remembered the name Hiroti so when his name came up at the back end of last year as someone who was looking for a club we grabbed him.

"He's a very athletic winger, he's tall, he's fast, a good goal kicker, He was interrupted in the pre-season with some injuries so his start of the season was interrupted but he gets his chance now with Ronaldo being out."

Dugan: Sharks would bring out best in MacDonald

Morris said the club was not moving forward with pursuing Wests Tigers middle forward Matt Eisenhuth now that their own middle stocks were replenished after an earlier injury shortage.

"It's no secret we were a bit short in the middle given Matt Prior had to move on; we were weighing up our options," Morris said.

"I've got some really good middles there at the moment; at the start of the year we had some injuries around Andrew Fifita, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Royce Hunt but now all our middles are fit one or two aren't making the side so now we're nice and healthy it's not as important to fill those spots."

Fifita will play his first game since the shut-down after recovering from a troublesome calf injury while halfback Chad Townsend also returns from a minor hamstring strain.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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