Uele snubs Warriors for Sharks
It's a double dose of good news for Sharks fans, with impact forward Braden Hamlin-Uele set to stay in the Shire, and Shaun Johnson ready to return to action.
In a major boost for Cronulla ahead of Thursday's 's top-four showdown against the Raiders in Canberra, Uele has agreed to terms with the Sharks on what The Daily Telegraph understands is a multi-year deal.
And in a double dose of good fortune for the Sharks, Kiwi Test star Shaun Johnson travelled to the Nation's Capital on Wednesday, seemingly on track to make his comeback after six weeks out with a hamstring injury.
It was when without a host of stars, including Wade Graham, Matt Moylan, Aaron Woods, Paul Gallen and Johnson over the opening two months of the season that Hamlin-Uele burst onto the scene.
The Auckland-born front-row forward has proven a revelation at a time of need, emerging as an unknown quantity in the midst of an injury crisis earlier this season, to be now a first-choice selection on coach John Morris' bench.
Instead of moving back home to play for the Warriors, the damaging 112kg ball-runner has chosen to stay loyal to the club that has allowed him to display major impact from the bench in his past eight games.
Uele, 24, is likely to formalise the deal in coming days and follows the Sharks retention last week of promising teammate and fellow forward Jack Williams, until the end of 2022.
Thursday's 's clash has been billed as the match of the round the return of Johnson would only add to the intrigue.
Travelling with the Cronulla squad by bus to Canberra, Johnson's comeback has been treated with great precaution by the Sharks, to the point where rookie half Kyle Flanagan has also made the trip to Canberra.
Morris said Flanagan's impressive form in the absence of Johnson made his decision difficult - but given the club's wretched run with depleted stocks, it's was a headache he welcomed.
"It's a hard decision - Kyle has done a really good job," Morris said.
"He's come in and allowed us to get some real good wins and he's played some real good footy for us.
"I suppose it's a good headache to have.
"It was really good to have Wade (Graham) back last week, at one stage there we had four or five of our top six (players) on the sideline so I'm really proud of the effort the (younger) boys have had over the last five or six weeks.
"Those young guys had a real baptism of fire but they've come in and learned how to compete at this level without key players around them."
Asked what Johnson's inclusion would mean to the Sharks, Morris said: "His experience and his leadership.
"He's a player of 160 to 170 NRL games and 30 odd Tests.
"And just that combination with Wade Graham, Matty Moylan, Chad Townsend, it would be great to get that spine going again.
"It was about round six that he went down so we haven't hit our straps with him in our team yet.
"I'm really looking forward to the game, it's a big game, both sides are on the cusp of the top four and it's a bit of a finals-like build-up for me," Morris said.
"Our boys are ready for a big game and no doubt they are as well."