Cronulla interim coach Josh Hannay defended his decision to replace star playmaker Shaun Johnson 17 minutes from full-time as the Sharks fell to an 18-12 loss Canterbury at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday night.
Johnson made his return from a ruptured Achilles at five-eighth after Matt Moylan succumbed to a quad injury but Hannay called him from the field with side trailing 18-6 in the 63rd minute.
However, Hannay later explained that it was only intended for Johnson to play 30 minutes in his first match of the season and he did not want to risk a further injury.
"I thought he had some really nice touches but we had to be really careful with Shaun," Hannay said. "The initial plan was for him to come off the bench and maybe play 30 minutes.
"Through Matt Moylan’s absence it forced our hand to start Shaun so we had to bring him off with 20 minutes to go just for his own personal well-being.
"He is too important a player for us to risk his health coming back from such a serious injury so there was always a plan once he had to start to maybe play 50 minutes, so we pushed him out to 60.
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"I understand that there was a game on the line there but he is also a priority for this club to keep on the park and we had to do the right thing for Shaun."
Hannay said Johnson had come through the match unscathed, while Moylan may also be fit next week.
“Matt just wasn’t good enough to take his place out there tonight so we erred on the side of caution," Hannay said.
"Shaun looked like he came through fine and I thought he looked pretty sharp. He felt fine, he looked good."
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After crashing to their third consecutive loss and the second since the dramatic sacking of coach John Morris, Hannay indicated that there could be changes for Friday night’s clash with the Storm.
He was particularly disappointed with Cronulla’s first half performance after they trailed 18-0 at the interval.
"It was a frustrating night. I think our start was poor but ultimately we created enough opportunities to win a couple of games," Hannay said.
"We have got a bad habit at the moment of coming out of the sheds as a second half footy team. We have got to start games a lot better than we have the past fortnight. “It is an individual thing, not being ready for the start of the contest.
"We have been a little bit thin for the past few weeks with available troops but that is going to change and certainly there will be guys come into contention."