Breakout utility Connor Tracey is on the verge of penning a three-year extension under incoming Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon, with the local junior joking he couldn't leave without at least playing one game at Shark Park.
Traditionally a five-eighth, a spot where he got a few chances late in 2020, Tracey has been one of his club's best through seven rounds plugging gaps in the centres and even on the wing.
Tracey told NRL.com some encouraging chats with Fitzgibbon had him close to inking what is likely to be a three-year extension to keep him in the Shire despite a logjam in his preferred positions of fullback and five-eighth.
While Tracey's current form would likely catch the eye of plenty of suitors, the local junior's first preference is to continue his development at Cronulla.
"I'm off contract this year but I'm in talks with Cronulla at the moment so we'll see how that goes, hopefully we'll sort it out pretty soon," Tracey said.
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"[Fitzgibbon] gave me a call a few weeks ago so I've had a few talks with him and I know that I'm in his plans.
"I'm a local junior so it would be great to be a part of what this club's building. I feel like we've got a lot of good sponsors on board and an exciting opportunity the next few years. It would be good to be a part of it."
Remarkably, Tracey is yet to play an NRL game at his team's regular home ground with the Sharks playing out of Kogarah due to a Pointsbet Stadium refurb since Tracey returned to the club from the Rabbitohs at the end of 2019.
"It would be nice to get a chance to play on Shark Park," he said.
"I haven't had that chance yet so hopefully the next three years – or however long I'll be here – it's ready.
"I came back last year and for two years we've been at Kogarah. I just missed here but growing up I was on the hill, used to play here when I was a junior so it would be really good to play here with a packed stadium some time. I played here for 20s but never played an NRL game here."
Of his own positional future, Tracey said while fullback is the long-term goal he's enjoyed learning new positions.
"I enjoy centre, I enjoy wing, I enjoy fullback and five-eighth so they're the four I can probably go between … but I do see myself long term as a fullback," he said.
"I'm just taking it week by week, if I get picked on the wing I do everything I can to be good for the team in that position.
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"Wing's probably harder than centre in the sense you have to organise the bombs, work with the fullback. Wing is probably more of a specialist position.
"I spend a lot of time during the week with the coaches and making sure I know exactly what my role is. I sort of had to learn it from scratch.
"It's a challenge but I'm sort of enjoying learning new positions every week and I've gone all right the last two weeks at wing so I'm staying on top of things and making sure I know exactly what I'm doing.
"I'm really enjoying that yardage aspect of it. Even when I was playing centre I was doing that.
"Every game this year I've been doing those yardage carries and I'm really enjoying getting forward for the team, getting quick play-the-balls, running's always been a strength of mine.
"It's been pretty fun getting to use that more in the back field and I'm really enjoying that at the moment.
"I trained the pre-season at fullback and I really enjoyed that. I got the chance to play centre then I played wing so it's lucky I did do that work in pre-season at fullback because playing fullback sort of allows you to play those outside back positions. Especially on the wing, it helps catching bombs all pre-season."
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