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The conversation behind Tracey's shift to fullback

Connor Tracey has watched videos of Jack Wighton and Cameron Munster playing fullback at the start of their NRL careers and believes he can have a similar impact in Cronulla's No.1 jersey.

After playing 16 matches for the Sharks last year at five-eighth, halfback or as an interchange playmaker, Tracey approached Cronulla coach John Morris and said he felt his game was suited to the fullback role.

Morris had similar thoughts and Tracey has spent the pre-season training almost exclusively at fullback with Will Kennedy, while Luke Metcalf has been alternating been fullback and halfback after his return from Manly.

"I have been thinking about it for the last few years but you have got to train for a full pre-season there to give it a real crack and I have been doing that this year so I am looking forward to that challenge," Tracey said.

"I talked to 'Bomber' [Morris] about it before pre-season. I saw there was an opportunity there, and he had the same idea. I said 'can I do some work at fullback', and he said, 'yeah, I was thinking of chucking you in there'.

"It was funny that we both had the same idea and I have pretty much trained there all pre-season."

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Tracey played juniors for De La Salle, whose ground is opposite PointsBet Stadium at Woolooware, and he was a fullback until shifting to five-eighth when he advanced to Cronulla's Harold Matthews Cup team as a 15-year-old.

The 24-year-old didn't play a game for three seasons after rupturing his ACL in 2015 and suffering two recurrences at training but finally made his NRL debut in 2019 with South Sydney.

Returning to the Sharks last season, he played four of the first five rounds and then made 12 consecutive appearances at the end of the season – the last four in the halves after Shaun Johnson suffered a knee injury.

With Johnson sidelined for the early part of the season Moylan is set to partner Chad Townsend in the halves, with Braydon Trindall, Metcalf and Tracey other options.

However fullback is Tracey's preferred position and he hopes to have a similar impact to Wighton and Munster when they wore the No.1 jersey for Canberra and Melbourne respectively.

"It was good to start a few games at five-eighth last season and I really enjoyed that but I probably think fullback suits my game more so I am looking forward to giving that a crack," Tracey said.

"Guys like Jack Wighton and Cameron Munster started as fullbacks, and the two positions are pretty much interchangeable in the modern game. I always look at video of guys who play similar to me, just to get bits from their game, and those are two I look up to, for sure.

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"I have always been a running five-eighth and I think that side of my game comes out more at fullback. You get more opportunities around the ruck, so it is good."

Tracey has been named on the bench for Saturday night's trial against Canterbury at Netstrata Jubillee Stadium, with Kennedy to start at fullback.

Metcalf is also in the extended squad after returning to Cronulla from Manly, where he spent two seasons learning from star halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and fullback Tom Trbojevic.

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"I couldn't thank Chez [Cherry-Evans] enough because he is a good role model for me, and he took me under his wing a little bit and helped me with my kicking game and things in defence or to look for in attack," Metcalf said.

"For a young kid coming up it was good. He doesn't care how old you are he will teach you a lot. I asked him a thousand questions so I think I probably annoyed him a bit but he was really good and he knew I wanted to learn.

"Last year I played a lot of fullback and I learned under Tom, who is one of the best fullbacks in the game."

The 21-year-old came through Cronulla's development pathways under Morris and played alongside Tieg Wilton, Jesse Ramien, Blayke Brailey, Ronaldo Mulitalo and Sione Katoa so it was an easy decision to join the Sharks.

"Bomber is good for me because I had him from under-15s all the way through," Metcalf said.

"He encourages you to do what you are good at. If you have a good running game or you are good at certain things he encourages you to do more of that, he doesn't try to take you away from what you are good at."

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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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