CRONULLA: FULLBACK BATTLE LOOMS LARGE

How Shane Flanagan settles on his lineup will go a huge way to dictating how well the 2018 season goes for the Sharks.

When the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks brought Valentine Holmes through the grades, the ultimate plan always looked to be a shift to fullback. He got the taste when veteran Michael Gordon was moved on to the Roosters.

Now, it appears the Townsville-born Sharks junior could have one hell of a battle to retain the gig with new recruits Matt Moylan and Josh Dugan heading to the Shire for 2018 and reports lingering that the 2016 Premiers remain keen on snaring wantaway Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce as well.

Holmes made the switch to fullback in the absence of Gordon and, despite one or two rough moments, he looked good enough to command the position long-term in a backline that featured Sosaia Feki, Ricky Leutele, and Gerard Beale.

As the Sharks crashed out of the 2017 NRL Finals series, some reshuffling was expected and a fairly sizeable recruitment drive saw the club bring Josh Dugan over from local rivals St George Illawarra, as well as live wire Aaron Gray from the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

On top of that, a long-mooted player swap with the Penrith Panthers for Matt Moylan, with James Maloney going in the other direction, began to materialise.

Although Moylan had played most of his footy at fullback, he had switched to five-eighth before leaving the Panthers and looked the obvious choice to slot straight in to the position vacated by Maloney, alongside Chad Townsend in the halves. While that still may be the case, and Flanagan seemed to suggest as much when speaking to Ben Ikin on NRL360, he did remain coy.

With rumours persisting that the Sharks are keen to bring Mitchell Pearce to the club, and have the financial flexibility to do so, the pieces to the puzzle are starting to outnumber the room on the table.