Backs to the wall for gummy Sharkies

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NRL -

A BRO­KEN jaw to rookie winger Sione Ka­toa could force Cronulla coach Shane Flana­gan into an early sea­son back­line makeover, in­clud­ing shift­ing Valen­tine Holmes from full­back.

De­scribed by Flana­gan as a “fu­ture su­per­star”, Ka­toa was un­able to re­turn to Syd­ney with the rest of the Cronulla squad after hav­ing surgery in Townsville yes­ter­day.

On de­but in the Sharks’ er­ror-rid­dled 20-14 loss to North Queens­land on Fri­day night, Ka­toa’s NRL dream was crushed by the re­al­ity that he now faces up to eight weeks on the side­line.

Re­plac­ing Ka­toa, 20, isn’t the only is­sue for Flana­gan, with 307-game for­ward Luke Lewis fac­ing be­tween two and six weeks out with a foot in­jury suf­fered 24 hours be­fore kick­off against the Cow­boys.

Ahead of the Sharks’ huge lo­cal-derby clash with St Ge­orge Illawarra at South­ern Cross Group Sta­dium on Thurs­day, Flana­gan de­clared he would “as­sess ev­ery op­tion avail­able” when it comes to re­plac­ing Ka­toa and Lewis.

“I’m re­ally dis­ap­pointed for Sione and Luke, but if there’s one thing I know about both of the boys is that they’ll do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to be fit and ready to re­turn once their in­juries heal,’’ Flana­gan said.

“We’ll all work hard to cover Lewy (Lewis) and as far as Sione is con­cerned, I’m ex­tremely for­tu­nate to have depth in our out­side backs so we’ll take our time to as­sess ev­ery op­tion avail­able to us.’’’

Given Holmes’ sta­tus as one of the world’s best wingers, the Test star would prove an easy so­lu­tion on the right wing for Flana­gan. But Holmes had a night to for­get in the No. 1 jumper against the Cow­boys.

Rookie Sharks winger Sione Ka­toa has a bro­ken jaw.

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