What’s on Cronulla’s hands with new playmaker Nicho Hynes?


On Monday, we looked at the biggest question for teams that finished in the bottom four in 2021.

Now we are taking things up a notch.

The difference between making the finals and missing them is often thin. If the Sharks and Raiders had won one more game (and both teams had suffered many losses in both directions), they would have made the play-offs instead of the Titans. Even if a team only scratches the skin of the teeth and is brutally dismantled in the first week, it’s still better than the alternative.

Every team that missed the final by a narrow margin thinks they are just a chunk or two away from taking that next step, so here is where that step could be taken for teams that finished 9th through. 12th in 2021.

The Warriors have been playing at home for almost 1,000 days. (Provided: New Zealand Warriors)

New Zealand warriors

Question: How long is too long on the road?

Responnse: If the Warriors return to New Zealand in time for their Round 15 clash with Penrith, it will be 1,063 days since their home game. Think about everything that has happened to you since August 30, 2019. Think about the ups and downs, wins and losses, silly quarantine modes and hobbies you chose during the lockdown to happily give up once. that we could all come out again. Think about who you were then and who you are now. It’s long.

Only four of the players who graced the lawn at Mt Smart that day are still with the club, and several of the Warriors’ most important players – like Addin Fonua-Blake and Reece Walsh – have never played a home game. in front of their own fans.

Returning to Mt Smart will be one of the most emotional days in the club’s history and every minute of absence will make it more enjoyable, but there is no guarantee it will actually turn out that way.

The whole club deserve a lot of credit for not falling apart over the past two seasons, but playing homeless for the third year in a row, let alone staying competitive, is a tough one.

Other than that, there are things to love about the Warriors. Shaun Johnson’s return is a big boost, as long as he’s allowed to play with his strengths, and Walsh will improve with another offseason of work. Tohu Harris is one of the best forwards in the league and together with Fonua-Blake and Matt Lodge he is part of a very solid midfielder while Euan Aitken and Josh Curran have been two of the great teams improving in 2021.

Rugby league player jumping in the air with excitement after the team scores a try
Chanel Harris-Tavita should feature more heavily in the conversation of the halves.(PAA: Darren Pateman)

There are a few question marks on the bottom line. It’s also surprising to see Chanel Harris-Tavita on the outside of the Battle of the Halves. But in an ideal world, Nathan Brown’s side would aim to improve next season.

But we haven’t been an Ideal World for quite some time now, almost 1,000 days, and for all the gratitude the competition owes the Warriors, there will be no mercy if they finally reach the point where they are. far from home becomes unbearable.

If the Warriors can be there or roughly for their comeback, especially since it coincides with the Origin period which has traditionally been a time when the club can regain some ground on their rivals, it could set them up for a big blow. inch to complete the season. But as we have seen, keeping your head above water is no easy task.

Dragons of St. George Illawarra

Jack Bird scores a try for the Dragons against Eels
Jack Bird has quietly concocted a very solid season in 2021.(PAA: Brendon Thorne)

Question: Has Jack Bird finally found a home?

Responnse: Bird’s return to St George Illawarra has been a quiet success in 2021 – after years of injury issues, Bird has had a very solid season and had good performances at full back, center, in the five-eighth and at the back.

The question now, as it always seems to be with Bird, is where to place him permanently and fit in as a center forward on the ball, in the style of Cameron Murray and Victor Radley, seems best suited.

It won’t come without its challenges, and Bird’s body will have to withstand the biggest crashes in the middle, but the idea of ​​the former Origin rep in liaison with Ben Hunt, Talatau Amone, and Tyrell Sloan across the pitch is an exciting prospect for a Dragons team that really needs a little spark.

A player from St George Illawarra NRL holds the ball with his right hand as he tries to beat a defender from South Sydney.
The emergence of Tyrell Sloan was one of the highlights of a difficult 2021 for the Dragons.(Getty / LNR Photos)

While the Dragons favor experience with their recent rookies, they have the parts for a very modern mid-rotation. In Bird and Jack de Belin they have two skilled distributors, a must in today’s game, and in Blake Lawrie and Francis Molo they have two other traditional and uncompromising front rowers.

It’s a good balance and while it remains to be seen exactly where Aaron Woods, George Burgess and Josh McGuire fit into that equation, they should be able to establish a good platform.

Bird has never played a long lockdown in his NRL career, but he’s the kind of player who can do just about anything on the pitch and although his versatility has been a curse at times. ‘he’s allowed to settle in that position, we should see some of his best footballers again.

Nick Cotric is level as he dives towards the try line with the ball in one hand.  An opponent of the South follows him
The Raiders will once again host Nick Cotric.(PAA: Lukas Coch)

Canberra Raiders

Question: How do they sort the backline?

Responnse: Last five footage has been a big part of any successful team for years, but with the rule changes made to the game over the past two seasons, it’s now become mandatory.

Canberra have long been fortunate to have yard-eaters up front like Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine, but apart from Jordan Rapana (164 yards per game) they just weren’t getting enough from the rest of the line. background on their own for much of 2021.

That changed in the later stages of the season, when Matt Timoko and Harley Smith-Shields started playing regularly. The Raiders are seventh in the league in terms of their last five average yards, at 652.3 yards per game.

But with the return of prodigal son Nick Cotric from Canterbury and the return of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad from a neck injury, it should give them the makings of one of the competition’s elite backlines. As the Panthers have shown in their Premiership run, it’s something you can build a title team around.

Three Canberra Raiders NRL players hug each other as they celebrate a try against the Warriors.
Canberra has a plethora of talent to select from in its backline.(Getty Images: Ian Hitchcock)

It also plays into Canberra’s strengths over the past three seasons or so. Even when they reached the grand finale in 2019, you wouldn’t call their attack particularly complicated. It was based on athletic players all over the court with the ability to beat defenders one on one and maximize the opportunities created by these clashes rather than any kind of structured play.

The idea of ​​three or four serious litters to build momentum and then play to the back of what is offered by the retreating defense seems like a good fit for the Raiders, especially since Jack Wighton works best when he doesn’t have to worry about fitting into a pattern.

However, finding the right choices to make it happen will be key. Nicoll-Klokstad, Rapana and Cotric are all definitive starters and skipper Jarrod Croker will have every possible chance to prove he’s recovered from knee and shoulder injuries that plagued him over the past two seasons.

That leaves a central place for Smith-Shields and Timoko to fight, perhaps a second if Croker is medically withdrawn at some point. Another exciting rookie, Xavier Savage, is waiting backstage, which means the Raiders will be spoiled for choice. Keeping Josh Hodgson for a final season is also a smart move – Canberra was at its best in 2021 when he and Tom Starling were both on the pitch at the same time.


Cronulla sharks

Question: What do the Sharks have with Nicho Hynes?

Responnse: In his first year as a regular starter, Hynes performed superb for Melbourne in 2021. But most of his best work has come at full back – he has only played four full halves in his season. career in the NRL. Plenty of other clubs would have tried their luck on Hynes as a long-term or five-eighth half-back if the Sharks hadn’t and there is nothing for sure.

Braydon Trindall and Matt Moylan will act as a complementary playmaker, with Trindall the best stylistic fit. Will Kennedy and Blayke Brailey are creative enough to help relieve the pressure, but Hynes has gone from being a cog in a great system to someone piloting the system himself.

If that doesn’t work, he’s unlikely to come back – Kennedy’s form in 2021, where he went from a stopgap to arguably the team’s best offensive player, demands its selection.

Four players from Cronulla Sharks NRL celebrate a try against the Brisbane Broncos.
Braydon Trindall’s skills (left) make him a good candidate alongside Nicho Hynes.(Getty Images: Bradley Kanaris)

Cronulla’s other major rookies – Dale Finucane and Cam McInnes – are much better known qualities, even taking into account that McInnes has undergone a knee reconstruction.

We can’t know if Hynes was a product of his environment or something larger until he has an environment in which he is the primary product. Many other players weren’t able to replicate their Storm form once they crossed the Victorian border. It’s a trend Hynes is talented enough to resist and he will carry a lot of Cronulla’s hopes for 2022.


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