Roosters stars have spruiked Craig Fitzgibbon's willingness to pit years of Brazilian jiu-jitsu training against them as proof of his coaching prowess as the Sharks wrestling with a decision on John Morris's tenure comes to a close.
A call on the Sharks coaching post is expected to come sometime this week, as negotiations with Fitzgibbon continue, to the point where Penrith assistant Cameron Ciraldo has been approached by Cronulla about a potential role alongside Fitzgibbon.
NRL.com understands Morris was told no decision on his future has been made when he and his manager Chris Orr met with Sharks CEO Dino Mezzatesta on Monday.
However the informal interest registered with Ciraldo suggests otherwise. It's believed the approach was only made recently as talks with Fitzgibbon progressed.
It is unclear whether Penrith would be willing to grant Ciraldo a release to join the Sharks, or if the renowned young coach will push to do so given the bright future he has helped establish at the Panthers.
Fitzgibbon is contracted to the Roosters for 2022, but is understood to have raised Cronulla's approaches with senior officials at Bondi, where he has given more than 20 years service as a player and assistant coach.
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The 43-year-old has been widely regarded as the next NRL coach for some time, knocking back approaches in recent years from the Knights, Dragons and Warriors.
Roosters players on Monday gave an insight as to why Fitzgibbon is so highly regarded.
After 10 seasons playing in red, white and blue, Fitzgibbon returned from a Super League swansong to eventually take charge of the Roosters defence for the past decade.
Throughout that time the "Bondi Wall" has been regarded as the most formidable defence in the game, paving the way to premierships in 2013, '18 and '19.
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Fitzgibbon's own enthusiasm for ruck management and wrestling has come to the fore throughout, with the Roosters one of few clubs that don't shy away from discussing what is often regarded as rugby league's darkest art.
A video taking fans "inside the wrestle gym" at Moore Park on the club's website from 2019 shows exactly that, as Fitzgibbon and wrestling consultants put Robinson's side through their paces.
Mano-a-mano combat during Roosters' pre-season camps has seen Fitzgibbon even engage his own Brazilian jiu-jitsu training with players as they stay at the top of their craft.
"He's just a real teacher, you learn a lot from him about D and a lot of philosophy around it," Nat Butcher said on Monday.
"That's something I've always admired and really appreciated. In my opinion he's such a great coach and I've always loved working with him.
"He's always big on the wrestle. I think we're a real wrestling club, we spend a lot of hours in the wrestle room in the pre-season making sure that that's up to speed and I know he really appreciates it and does his own wrestling stuff, he has a good mind for it and feeds it back to us.
"He occasionally jumps in for the wrestle camps so that's always fun to give him a wrestle.
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"He's fit as a fiddle and he goes well, he still challenges us."
While Fitzgibbon boasts the most impressive of resumes even before his recent Roosters life membership is taken into account, he also has a connection to Cronulla through his father Allan.
The former Balmain premiership player himself coached the Sharks for three seasons from 1988-91, which would continue a remarkable father-son story should Craig take charge at Cronulla.
Fitzgibbon has also served as an assistant on Brad Fittler's NSW Origin staff, with his old Roosters teammate endorsing him as a future Blues coach previously as well.
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Veteran winger Brett Morris played against Fitzgibbon when their careers crossed over more than 10 years ago, and backed him to find success as a head coach after serving such a lengthy apprenticeship.
"Fitzy's been here a long time and deservedly got that life membership." Morris said.
"He's very, very clever and not just with defence. He obviously knows the attacking systems and principles that we have.
"He spends a lot of time in the wrestling room with the backs and the forwards. He's very hands on [and] knows how to get the guys working at a high level and getting their technique up to scratch very quickly.
"He's very smart in the way that he goes about the defensive structures that we need in place and the guys in certain positions to do what we need out there on the field.
"Fitzy I think he'd have great success wherever he coaches, he's just that type of guy."
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