Cronulla will be forced to dig into their halves reserves after it was confirmed star Shaun Johnson has suffered an NRL season-ending ruptured achilles.
Scans on Sunday have confirmed initial fears after Johnson was forced from the field in Saturday’s 34-18 NRL loss to the Sydney Roosters.
The New Zealand international will see a surgeon on Monday and is facing a recovery and rehabilitation process which will run deep into the 2021 campaign.
Just two weeks out from the finals, it’s a less than ideal scenario for the eighth-placed Sharks.
With Johnson sidelined and Chad Townsend suspended until week one of the finals, Cronulla coach John Morris will be forced to find back up against Canberra on Saturday afternoon.
The job is likely to fall to Connor Tracey, who has deputised since Townsend was sent off for a hit on Kalyn Ponga in round 17.
However, returning skipper Wade Graham is another option in the halves given his ball-playing ability.
“Obviously Braydon Trindall has done a good job, Connor’s been doing a fantastic job for us and he’ll compete hard for you,” Morris said of his halves options.
“Wade Graham comes back into the side so he brings a skill-set that he could go there as well, he’s played there before with State of Origin so I may look to bring Wade into the play there.
“We’re pretty wounded at the moment, not just those three, there’s a number of guys there with ice packs on.
“We just need to lick our wounds and dust ourselves off and get a healthy 17 together and get going again.
“It’s been a fantastic effort to put ourselves in this position so we need to make sure this doesn’t put too much of a dent in our confidence.”
The Sharks are assured a place in the finals after a gutsy win over the Warriors in round 18 shored up their place.
However, they have not beaten a current top eight side this season.
Morris wanted to make a statement against the Roosters on Saturday night but he’ll settle for next week against the Raiders.
“I wanted us to come here and put in a really solid performance just to get the belief and momentum… We don’t take out of the game what I was hoping to,” Morris said after Saturday’s loss.
“A week is a long time in footy and you can get it back going again pretty quick hopefully.”