Townsend move won't prompt Sharks axing

·2-min read

Interim Cronulla coach Josh Hannay insists Chad Townsend's defection to North Queensland for next year won't cause him to be dropped from the club's halves.

Townsend's call to leave Cronulla has completely shaken up the Sharks' playmaking picture, with Matt Moylan and Shaun Johnson still off contract.

Until a week ago Townsend looked the most likely of the trio to be there in 2022, given he had an option in his favour to stay for next season.

But Cronulla are now staring at a blank canvas ahead of new coach Craig Fitzgibbon's arrival for next season, with South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds a target and Johnson and Moylan options to play No.6.

The situation is made even more interesting by Johnson's return this weekend from a ruptured achilles tendon, meaning Hannay has three players vying for two spots for the rest of the season.

He insists Townsend's impending move north won't hurt his selection chances.

"First and foremost, I'll always put the 17 out that gives us the best chance of winning," Hannay said.

"This game and industry is about winning. So while ever I feel Chad gives us our best chance, he'll remain our No.7.

"If that changes we've got options there. Shaun Johnson's back this week.

"But it'll always be based on what gives us the best chance of winning."

Hannay said his stance had been backed by Fitzgibbon, who has told the caretaker coach his priority should be on the best possible results for 2022.

Hannay himself faces an uncertain future, dependent on whether Fitzgibbon keeps him on staff.

Meanwhile the interim coach stressed that Johnson had not been rushed back for the Bulldogs game, but was coy on whether he'd come off the bench as named.

"It's been a long, arduous rehabilitation for him," Hannay said.

"We won't be expecting miracles from Shaun straight away. He's obviously a class player, and was one of the better halves in the competition last year.

"We don't expect him to jump back in and be a saviour or hero for us. We just want him to get back into the swing of playing in the NRL.

"And we'll certainly be treading cautiously with him. He's so critical to our fortunes."