Todd Carney knows what the Sharks have been lacking in his absence.
The Cronulla pivot will make his comeback from a hamstring injury in the local derby clash against St George Illawarra at Remondis Stadium on Saturday night, and he sees his role as controlling the play for the Sharks.
“I’ll definitely bring a lot of direction,” Carney said. “I play a bit more [with my] hands on the ball. The local derby is a bit of a bashfest so as long as we can complete and kick long and play at their end of the field then we are in with a big chance," he said.
Without Carney, Cronulla have struggled, failing to win a game in the opening two matches and scoring 16 points – the least in the NRL. Carney will be Cronulla’s third five-eighth in as many games; Wade Graham and Penani Manumalealii filled in while he was sidelined.
“I’m really excited. It’s been a long time coming. I would’ve liked to have started the year but I wasn’t 100 per cent right. I’ve done everything [at training] for the last week and a half. The body is feeling good and ready to go.”
Carney joined Luke Lewis, Beau Ryan and Anthony Tupou on the sideline when he strained his hamstring at the Auckland Nines. Cronulla’s horror injury toll has only grown with Paul Gallen and Jeff Robson sidelined while Andrew Fifita will miss the Dragons match as he completes his two-game suspension.
“It’s been hard with the injuries we’ve had,” Carney said. “We are starting to get players back on deck this week and then the next few weeks. We need to start our season on Saturday night. That’s the way we are looking at it.
“We feel like we have prepared really well and have the right game plan to upset the Dragons.”
Carney was mindful too that rushing back from injury could cost him an opportunity to push for a State of Origin recall. Carney has made no secret of his desire to again represent NSW having featured for the Blues in 2012.
“That was in the back of my mind,” Carney said. “Coming into the season underdone, I wasn’t going to play at 80 per cent and re-hurt it. If I did it was going to be eight weeks on the sidelines.
“I want to play Origin, hopefully on Saturday night I’ll play well and into the rep footy. It’s burning inside me to play Origin again.
“I definitely have a point to prove and hopefully I’ll get an opportunity this year.”
Meanwhile, Carney has backed dumped hooker Michael Lichaa to reclaim his first grade spot. Lichaa was relegated to NSW Cup after informing his teammates that he’ll switch to Canterbury on a three-year $1 million deal from next season. Lichaa was dropped despite a solid debut against the Bulldogs last Monday.
“I’m disappointed Michael has left,” Carney said. “I’ve left clubs before, under different circumstances obviously. I owed the club loyalty because they gave me a lifeline.
“Players come and players go. It’s turned a bit ugly and I know Michael doesn’t want that.
“He’ll get his chance again.”