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T-Rex Sharks' debut looms, Beale injured

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/03/2017 Steve Zemek

Cronulla have been forced to turn to their fourth-choice fullback Jack Bird, with Gerard Beale ruled out of Saturday's NRL clash with Canberra due to a hamstring injury.

The Sharks are facing an early test of their depth with coach Shane Flanagan mulling over whether to hand often-maligned big man Tony Williams his club debut.

The Sharks' No.1 jumper has proven a poisoned chalice over the opening months of the year after Ben Barba quit the NRL for French rugby following his drugs suspension while Valentine Holmes and Beale are both out with hamstring problems.

The premiers' position is not completely dire with Holmes training strongly during Friday's captain's run and Flanagan saying he could have played had it been a final.

Flanagan said they didn't want to risk a recurrence and predicted Holmes would be back next week.

Beale is expected to return as early as next week after suffering a twinge on Wednesday.

"We lost Benny, we lost Valentine and now we lost Gerard Beale," Flanagan said.

"We're now onto our fourth (fullback). Hopefully Birdie plays really well tomorrow and nails down that position.

"It's a bit of a problem for us, we didn't expect to lose Benny and the other two due to injury. It's a test of our depth and to throw an Origin player back there is not a bad option."

Utility Kurt Capewell is expected to slot into Bird's centre spot however Flanagan left the door open for Williams to play his first game in the black, white and blue.

Flanagan said he was keeping his cards close to his chest and considering moving Williams or fellow back-rower Luke Lewis into the centres.

After being cut by Canterbury at the end of last year, former NSW and Australian representative Williams was offered a lifeline by Cronulla.

Flanagan admitted the 28-year-old wasn't at peak fitness but he was committed to extracting the best out of him.

"Tony's going ok. I wouldn't say he's where we want him to be but it's early days yet," Flanagan said.

"He played 80 minutes last week in NSW Cup which is a good start for him and he played pretty well.

"You'll see him this year, whether it's tomorrow or not, you'll have to wait and see. But he's doing a good job and training hard and there's a talented footballer in there."

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