Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan believes Sharks hooker Michael Ennis has every right to feel bitterly disappointed to have lost his NSW No.9 jumper for State of Origin I.
Ennis openly admits he’s “dirty” at being dropped after Blues coach Laurie Daley played the loyalty card and reinstated long-time vice-captain and sometime skipper Robbie Farah after missing last year’s series decider through injury.
Flanagan understands Daley’s decision, but doesn’t quite agree with it after watching Ennis – last year’s Dally M runner-up – help guide the Sharks to the top of the NRL for the first time since 1999.
“He is the form hooker in the competition,” Flanagan said on Fox Sports’ NRL 360.
“I love that loyalty that Laurie has shown to Robbie Farah, but Michael’s probably gone into most Origin series or Origin games, especially last year, off the back of an injury to Robbie.
“And this year he has played really well and week after week been the form hooker, so he’s got a fair bit to put his hand up and say `pick me’.”
Flanagan confessed to being surprised by journeyman Ennis’s immense contribution to the Sharks in his first stint with the club in 2015 after stints with Newcastle, St George Illawarra, Brisbane and Canterbury.
“Last year he sort of excelled in my expectations and this year he has continued to grow,” Flanagan said.
“His involvement on and off the field, he’s just a pleasure to coach.
“And his form this year has probably continued on from last year and probably got a little bit better.”
Believing he’s playing some of the best football of his career, 32-year-old Ennis is making no secret of the fact he’s gutted by his omission.
“I am dirty I’m not there,” Ennis said, also on NRL 360.
“I feel like I’m playing well at Cronulla and I would’ve loved to have gone into a game in the form that I feel like I’m playing in at the moment,” he said.
“But it’s not to be. To Laurie’s credit, he gave me a call and spoke to me about it. That was a sign of his character.
“Laurie was openly honest. He basically said to me that he felt that, with Robbie playing in games one and two last year then getting injured, he owed that to him to give him the opportunity.
“He said there’s nothing that he can tell me to go back to club footy and do. The form’s good and the club’s form’s good and to just keep chipping away.
“That’s all you can ask of (him).”