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Bouncing back: Moylan steels himself for career-defining season

As part of our series of articles on players aiming for a bounce-back year, Troy Whittaker profiles a classy Shark with plenty to play for in 2021.

At 29 and after two injury-cruelled campaigns, off-contract Shark Matt Moylan knows there's an awful lot riding on this season.

Hamstring and calf issues have hampered the silky playmaker, with the former Panthers captain's frequent time in the casualty overshadowing his ample class and talent.

But to use a well-worn rugby league cliche, Moylan is said to have trained the house down this pre-season, getting plenty of kilometres into his legs to build his most solid platform in years.

And he took the initiative of reconnecting with renowned sprint coach Roger Fabri, who tweaked his running mechanics in the summer.

Cronulla coach John Morris, who last week enthused that Moylan was "flying", has all but confirmed he'll play five-eighth while Shaun Johnson rehabs an Achilles injury for the first eight-or-so rounds.

Moylan spent 2018, his first season at the Sharks, partnering Chad Townsend in the halves. He warmed up as the campaign wore on to help Cronulla finish fourth and reach the preliminary final.

Graham: New faces bring fresh perspective

With some familiarity already established in the role and his body seemingly strong as ever, Moylan could be about to remind everyone of the skill that earned him NSW and Test berths in 2016.

"I've put the work in now and I feel like I've got a good foundation and base to build off," Moylan said last week after stating that he's still got a lot to add to his 132-game, nine-year NRL career.

He added that a new contract "is not really something I'm focused on, I'm more worried about trying to get out there and playing."

Statistical peak

Whether at fullback or five-eighth, Moylan at his best is a top-tier provider with a penchant for tallying try assists.

In 2016, the year that he became a true rep player, Moylan produced 21 try assists in 21 matches for Penrith wearing the No.1 jumper.

The following season was mired in drama as hamstring injuries and a rumoured falling-out with coach Anthony Griffin preceded his Panthers departure. Moylan played 18 games and posted eight try assists as Penrith made the finals, though he didn't feature.

Things took time to click at the Sharks, but a return of 16 try assists - including six in one outing against Newcastle - was another indicator of Moylan's wonderful vision and deft touch.

Johnson was Cronulla's try assist king last year with 23 in 16 games; Moylan's record suggests he can pick up the creative slack.

Inside Shaun Johnson's Achilles rehabilitation

Often overlooked about Moylan is his status as a winner. He boasts a healthy 58.33 percent victory rate throughout his career, and only once has he finished a season having lost more games than he's won (45 percent in 2015 - played 11, won five, lost six).

Having snuck into the finals in 2020 without Moylan, the Sharks will firstly hope he can stay on the park, then that he again becomes a valuable source of points capable of influencing results.