Sharks' Graham, Kelly ignore the pressure - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sharks' Graham, Kelly ignore the pressure

By Ben Horne 29/03/2011 08:46:42 PM Comments (0)

Cronulla halves Wade Graham and Albert Kelly understood they'd be the difference between whether their side surprised or bombed this NRL season.

The game's youngest No.6 and 7 combination were aware that the Sharks hopes of proving the critics wrong rested on their inexperienced and unheralded shoulders.

However, it's clear they're not really feeling the pressure and so far they're doing the job.

Cronulla's forward pack is amongst the strongest in the league without question, but translating their dominance up front into wins was always going to come down to Graham and Kelly's ability to run the side.

"My halves are the key I think," admits coach, Shane Flanagan.

"If they can develop and get us around the park and kick well, I think we'll be in a lot of our games."

That's fair expectation on a twenty-year-old Graham and 19-year-old Kelly who had barely trained together before round one.

The pair played one match for a NSW under 18s team a couple of years back, but after Graham missed six weeks of the pre-season with a hamstring injury, Cronulla's round one hiding at the hands of Canberra was their first real chance to test their combination.

The magnitude of the Raiders' loss would have decimated the confidence of most young playmakers.

But in Graham and Kelly, Flanagan knows he's found a duo who believe in themselves.

Kelly copped a panning for errors he made at fullback in his debut season last year, yet has shrugged that off in less than 12 months to play brilliant and mistake-free football the past two weeks.

Penrith junior Graham has dealt with comparisons to Brad Fittler since he was 15, and has continued to develop his game despite being up and down from first grade in his rookie years at the Panthers.

Graham believes he and Kelly can keep the Sharks in the top eight.

"There comes a little bit of pressure but I think it makes it a lot easier with the guys (in the forwards), you know what you're going to get," said Graham.

"Obviously we're going to have a few teething problems here ... but hopefully it can only get better. Alby's a great player and you've seen a bit of what he can do."

Built like a backrower, Graham is a strong runner of the ball, while Kelly has proven his ability to create something out of nothing.

Graham says their combination has all the right ingredients, but its long-term success will come down to persistence.

"I think we do suit each other," he said.

"Albert's more of an instinct player, he plays what he sees, and I take the role of being the steady one and let him do his own thing.

"We're both young, we both get along really well which always helps, and ... we (can't) be complacent."

Meanwhile the Sharks admit they've taken a risk by moving their NRL clash with the Warriors on Sunday from the Shire to Taupo, New Zealand.

Bad weather has contributed to some low crowds at Toyota Stadium when the Sharks have hosted the Warriors in recent seasons.

As a result a financial decision was made by the club to take the round four match to Taupo, a town which is about three hours south of the Warriors' base in Auckland.

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