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Brailey says under-rated Hynes can lead team to Grand Final glory

There were many questions surrounding Nicho Hynes’ move to Cronulla and whether the Sharks could be title contenders with the Storm utility in the chief playmaker role.

Not only has he silenced his critics, but he is also on track to guide the team to its best shot at winning what would be just the second premiership in Cronulla’s 55-year history.

The Sharks are a strong chance to finish second, giving them home-ground advantage and the potential to catapult straight to the preliminary final stage.

Very few NRL teams touch the trophy unless they have an elite talent in the No.7 jersey and hooker Blayke Brailey believes Hynes can be the one to take them to premiership glory.

“Without a doubt. I think it has shown in the last 22 rounds how he has been playing and how he’s been leading the team around it,” Brailey told The Roar.

“He prepares so hard, he does so much video, he works with the coaches so much. He is part of a big reason why we are in the top four.

“I don’t think anyone expected him to be such a dominant halfback so quickly, but this comes down to what he does during the week. He tries hard, like I said he does so much video, he’s always asked questions and it obviously shows on the weekend, how well he prepares.”

Nicho Hynes celebrates. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Off the back of an already impressive debut season in the Shire, Hynes is shaping up to be a dark horse to make the Australian World Cup squad. He is also firming as a favourite for the Dally M Player of the Year Award.

“Oh, for sure. I think in these next two games if he plays really well, absolutely for sure,” Brailey said when asked about Hynes’ Dally M prospects.

With some saying it’s been a relatively easy season for the Sharks, the side have actually displayed their resilience and depth while missing players constantly throughout the year. Experienced players took on more responsibilities, and young guys like Lachlan Miller, Kade Dykes and Brailey himself all putting their hands up.

“We’ve had our fair share of injuries and players in and out and players in rep sides, just like everyone else,” Brailey said.

“So, yeah, I wouldn’t say we’ve had an easy run and I just think we have kind of been building on that underdog type tag, and I think all the players are really enjoying it.

“We know how strong our squad is, I think our NSW Cup side is at the top of the ladder as well. So that’s a sign of a good club, there’s no fluke where, you know, we’re doing well in first grade. We obviously can’t play at the intensity as well as we could if all our 30 side doesn’t train and prepare well. So yeah, it’s been a massive year for not only the first-grade side but also the whole squad.”

Blayke Brailey of the Sharks runs the ball

(Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Finally returning to Shark Park after being based at Kogarah for a few years, Cronulla fans would love nothing more than to cap the regular season off with a second spot finish and a home semi-final which will be played at their home base rather than the rebuilt Allianz Stadium if they leapfrog the Cowboys, who have a much tougher final two weeks.

“We haven’t really spoken too much about that. Obviously, we know we’re going to be in the finals somewhere, but we haven’t really spoken too much about where we will actually play,” said Brailey.

“Not having to travel and knowing when you’re going to play obviously helps. We want to win these next two games and, keep striving to better ourselves. And if it’s not second then third. We know regardless it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re definitely aiming for that second slot for sure.”

The Sharks are being touted as having an easy run home, starting with the Canterbury Bulldogs this Saturday.

“Obviously, we can’t control the draw and we know that old cliche that there are no easy games in the NRL. It’s pretty easy to become sort of complacent and to miss these next two weeks but the main reason is focusing on us and making sure we know our role and how we want to play it – there are no easy games.

“They (Bulldogs) have sort of hit some form the last few weeks, they have got some dangerous players and some really inform players that want to finish the year off well. Yeah, we definitely can’t take them lightly, and same with the Knights who we play in the last week.”

On top of the valuable two points on offer, Saturday’s game will also be the final times club veterans Aiden Tolman and Andrew Fifita play at home. Tolman announced his retirement on Friday, with Fifita set to leave the club at the end of the season.

“He has the sort of character and attitude we want to instill in all the young players coming through here and they’ll be better for the experience of seeing what Aiden Tolman is all about.” said Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon.

“For a first-year coach such as myself, I’m really thankful I had him as a part of the group.”

Regarding the news of Fifita moving on, Brailey was surprised.

Andrew Fifita. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

“Yeah, it came as a bit of a shock. The energy in the last couple of weeks, he’s back to his younger self where he was running through teams. And yeah, it’s obviously a shame. He’s such a big part of our squad and our Sharks’ identity and history.”

Fifita was part of the premiership-winning side of 2016, and Brailey explained a few of the senior guys are feeling the same vibes as they did back then.

Hynes is not unlike Chad Townsend, who was integral to the title-winning team – a halfback who is not a representative star but more than capable of getting the job done. He took over from Townsend this year and the veteran is now steering the Cowboys around, leading them back up the table.

“There’s obviously been some key similarities, but we are a different squad to that 2016 side,” Brailey said.

“So, there are still some players like Wade and Andrew who played in that big game, so when those finals and those bigger games come, we’ll definitely be speaking to them more and getting as much knowledge as we can to obviously continue our winning streak.

“As long as I’m lifting that trophy at the end of the year, I’ll be happy.”

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