Hannay can't predict how Sharks bite back

·3-min read

Josh Hannay is the first to admit he doesn't know how Cronulla players will respond to John Morris' brutal axing against Newcastle.

On the one hand the assistant-turned-caretaker hopes it galvanises them. But on the other, he knows it could have the opposite effect.

Sharks players returned to training on Thursday for the first time since a Tuesday afternoon text message confirmed Morris' exit and Craig Fitzgibbon's 2022 arrival.

On Friday, they'll take a two-and-a-half hour bus trip to Newcastle for their first game without Morris in charge since the start of 2019.

"I'm not a mind-reader and we won't know until they get out there tomorrow night just how they've been affected," Hannay said.

"It may affect our performance, it may not.

"Footballers are good at telling you what you want to hear.

"I'll look them in the eye and I'll ask them how they're feeling and they'll tell me they're good to go.

"But behind the scenes I know that some will be feeling a little bit more than others."

For many, the association with Morris dates back further than just his time as NRL coach.

He played for the club until 2014, and co-captain Wade Graham had him as a teammate from as far back as 2011.

He also led the club's junior development, bringing through the likes of Blayke Brailey, Will Kennedy, Briton Nikora and nephew Teig Wilton.

Morris' axing is different in that not only had he reached the finals both years in charge, he also still had the support of the dressing room.

"John was very well respected by the playing group and well liked. That does add a layer of complexity to the situation," Hannay said.

"It's important to be respectful to the situation and the individual ... You can't just pretend that what's happened hasn't happened. But an important element to it is about moving on as quick as we can.

"But this group and club has a history of resilience. When their backs have been to the wall it's tended to bring out the best in Cronulla.

"Time will tell if that's going to be the case here."

Beyond Friday, life will get easier for the Sharks.

They have an eight-day turnaround into a clash with Canterbury, offering time to regroup.

Hannay is also adamant he still has a top-eight side and that unlike last season when he took over from Paul Green at North Queensland, very little needs to change.

"This club is in a much healthier position," he said.

"The roster is in a much better position. There greater camaraderie amongst the group and they're performing pretty well.

"I certainly don't feel like coming into this situation that there's a lot to fix.

"It's about making sure that we don't fall into a hole and go backwards from here."