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Graham signs 2-year NRL deal with Sharks

NZN 24/03/2017 Steve Zemek

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has hailed Wade Graham as his next captain and Matt Prior an Origin-player-in-waiting after both re-signed with the NRL premiers.

The Sharks moved a step closer to retaining the bulk of their grand final-winning side with Graham on Friday inking a two-year extension and Prior signing on for another three years.

The retention of the key duo is a big feather in the cap for Flanagan who was tasked with keeping the championship side together.

"It's a credit to the club, they can all probably go and get more money elsewhere but they want to stay," Flanagan said.

Jack Bird and Chad Townsend are the only two big names yet to recommit after the Sharks also locked up Valentine Holmes and Sosaia Feki earlier this year.

With skipper Paul Gallen expected to retire at the end of 2017, Graham is all but assured of assuming the leadership next year, according to Flanagan.

"He's been in our leadership group with (Michael) Ennis and Gal for the last couple of years and he's taken the next step this year," Flanagan said.

"With Michael not being here, there's a big gap to fill. It's going to be good for Wade this year to step up.

"He's learnt well what leadership of a club means. Gal's about actions on the field and Wade is about both (actions and words). He can talk well and fill that void that Michael leaves for us."

Prior was a somewhat under-appreciated figure in Cronulla's run to a drought-breaking premiership victory but Flanagan lavished praise on him on Friday.

The NSW Blues are well off for Origin front rower contenders with teammate Andrew Fifita, Aaron Woods, David Klemmer, James Tamou, Shannon Boyd, Jake Trbojevic and Jordan McLean in the mix, but Flanagan said Prior was capable of breaking through for a representative debut.

"Matt can play Origin, he's not out of that league," Flanagan said.

"It's another step that Matty wants to make and I think his form over the last six to eight months has been great and he was probably the form front-rower of the end of last year."

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