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Sharks may lose final hosting rights, Warriors sign Martin

The NRL could deny Cronulla the right to host a home semi-final if the Sharks secure a top-two finish for the first time since 1999 due to the outdated facilities at PointsBet Stadium.

Finishing their season with games against bottom-eight battlers St George Illawarra, Wests Tigers, Manly, Canterbury and Newcastle, the Sharks will fancy their chances of securing a top-two finish under impressive first-year coach Craig Fitzgibbon.

The Sharks have been able to turn their home ground into a graveyard for rival sides this season.

Third-placed Cronulla have a 7-1 record at the ground and only a round-12 loss to the Sydney Roosters has prevented the Sharks from being undefeated at PointsBet. 

But in previous years when Cronulla have earned a finals game at home they have had to move games to the old Sydney Football Stadium.

Broadcast, corporate and parking facilities play a factor in the NRL’s consideration of granting clubs a home finals game with the league set to inform clubs of their requirements to host finals fixtures over the next month. 

“If we win a home-ground advantage, we would want to play at home,” Sharks chief executive Dino Mezzatesta told AAP after his club last hosted a home finals game at PointsBet Stadium in 2008.

“That’s our starting point and given we are a fair bit out we will continue to have dialogue with the NRL. We have had no problem selling out our games regardless of the timeslot.”

PointsBet Stadium is working at an 11,500 capacity due to renovations but NRL head of football Graham Annesley said that wouldn’t be a determining factor. Last year the NRL hosted finals games at Mackay’s 12,000-capacity BB Print Stadium.

“There’s not a specific (crowd) number because it’s a combination of not just a capacity but reserved seating,” Annesley told AAP. “The long and the short of it is that the NRL has to approve the venue.

“We haven’t reached any conclusion that we would relocate the Sharks should they qualify for a home semi-final. We need to go through the process with them and every other club.”

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

The Sharks’ alternative preference would likely be the newly-built Sydney Football Stadium, although if they were to face another Sydney club they would be ceding any of the advantage earned by their final ladder position.

The Sharks hope to have PointsBet Stadium back to around a 17,000 capacity by July but are one of the clubs who were expecting to receive NSW Government funding for an upgrade to their facilities.

Cronulla have an NRLW side entering the competition next year but, as things stand, will be unable to stage men’s and women’s double headers because of the infrastructure.

Martin switches to Warriors

Broncos utility Te Maire Martin’s feelgood story of the year just got better with the 26-year-old signing a three-year contract with the Warriors, starting in 2023.

The former Panthers and Cowboys star has made a remarkable return to the NRL this year after a bleed on the brain forced the Kiwi international out of the game in 2019.

“Te Maire’s comeback to the game has been outstanding and we’re delighted we’ve been able to bring him home to New Zealand,” said Warriors CEO Cameron George. “He’s another quality player who will further boost our roster for 2023. With his ability to play at fullback and in the halves he’s going to be a real asset for us.”

The Warriors have been active in the player market following the mid-season losses of prop Matt Lodge and five-eighth Kodi Nikorima with fullback Reece Walsh (Broncos) and second-rower Euan Aitken (Dolphins) signed elsewhere next year and utility Chanel Harris-Tavita taking a year off from the sport.

They have also signed Knights veteran Mitchell Barnett, Sharks playmaker Luke Metcalf, Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Eels forward Marata Niukore and Manly utility Dylan Walker while Ronald Volkman and Freddy Lussick joined mid-season from the Sydney Roosters.

Panthers assistant Andrew Webster is taking over as coach after club legend Stacey Jones finishes his interim stint at season’s end following the abrupt departure of Nathan Brown.

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