A simple inquiry about whether Cameron McInnes was willing to make a permanent switch to lock led to Cronulla securing their biggest signing since John Morris took over as coach.
However, it remains to be seen if Morris gets the opportunity to coach McInnes in 2022 as the Sharks were unable to tell the St George Illawarra captain whether Morris would be in charge beyond this season.
Paul Green's one-year deal as Queensland State of Origin coach ensures he is available for an NRL job in 2022, while Craig Fitzgibbon, Cameron Ciraldo and Steve Price have all been linked to the Sharks.
Shane Flanagan, the man Morris replaced on the verge of the 2019 season, is also on the lookout for another job, although it is hard to imagine him being given a third stint at Cronulla after his second NRL-imposed suspension ends later this year.
Morris, who has virtually been unable to recruit due to salary penalties and restraints he inherited, is in the spotlight because there are few other coaches off contract after a brutal 2020 in which five clubs changed coach.
Cronulla officials have maintained since the end of last season that they are in no hurry to make a decision on Morris or any of their star players coming off contract, including Josh Dugan, Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan and Aaron Woods.
Graham: New faces bring fresh perspective
With salary cap space and money finally available to spend, it is believed the Sharks want to see whether Morris can attract big name recruits to complement the young talent he has assembled in the past two seasons.
Centre Jesse Ramien had been Morris's biggest signing before McInnes, but he was a Cronulla junior who returned after an unhappy stint in Newcastle.
Blayke Brailey, Briton Nikora, Will Kennedy, Bronson Xerri and Billy Magoulias were other players developed by Morris before he became first grade coach and given their NRL debuts by him.
However, he has not had the chance to recruit any big names before McInnes and the Dragons star praised Morris and the Sharks for their astuteness in acting on his comments about being equally comfortable playing hooker or lock.
Most assumed McInnes had only begrudgingly accepted the move to lock last year for the Dragons and would be looking to play hooker if he changed clubs but Morris views him as a player who would thrive in the middle under the new NRL rules.
With six-again called for offside, play-the-balls replacing scrums when the ball goes into touch and incorrect play-the-balls resulting in handovers, smaller forwards who can capitalise on fatiguing opponents around the ruck are going to be in demand.
"When I met with the Sharks they respectably asked me outright, 'Would you be open to playing lock?'" McInnes said.
"I've said all along that I don't care, but for some reason no one took my word for that. Everyone was looking at what clubs have hooker openings.
McInnes: 'I will leave on great terms'
"John Morris was really impressive in dealing with him, He is a 300-game player as well, so he knows footy inside out. He knows what it is like to be a player and to be at the top level for so long so I am looking forward to working with him.
"He just spoke about how he thinks that small forward role is becoming pretty important in the game. Having that experience at hooker I'm able being able to recognise the ruck speed and things like. That's what the chats were about."
Once McInnes confirmed he would be happy to play lock and help Brailey's development as one of the game's best up and coming hookers, the Sharks – led by general manager of football Darren Mooney – went hard for the 27-year-old.
Cronulla captain Wade Graham phoned McInnes, while former international Luke Lewis told him how the move from Penrith to the Sharks had benefitted his career.
However, no one from Cronulla could tell McInnes who the coach will be when he joins the club in 2022 and the only assurance he received was that if Morris is no longer in charge his replacement would be another high quality coach.
Sharks in 2021
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