Cronulla powerbrokers have been urged to move quickly to re-sign hooker Michael Ennis, as the NRL club faces a possible leadership vacuum.
Veterans Ennis, skipper Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Chris Heighington are all off contract with the Sharks at the end of the 2016 season.
The foursome have played over 1000 NRL games between them and represent the vast majority of first grade experience at the club.
At 31, Ennis is the youngest of the group and after being arguably the NRL’s best hooker in 2015 still looks to have several good seasons left in him.
At 34 Gallen is undecided on whether he will play past 2016 with the Sharks or move to Super League for a rugby league swansong.
Sharks officials moved sluggishly to re-sign the NSW captain for next season, an indication they may feel it should be his last in the Shire.
After a highly-decorated career, Lewis has struggled with injury in recent seasons and 2016 may be his final year in the NRL and that might also be the case for fellow 32-year-old Heighington.
Rising youngster Jack Bird’s deal with the Sharks also concludes at the end of next season and the re-signing of the in-demand utility is a priority for Cronulla.
Fellow rising star Valentine Holmes says retaining Ennis should also be a priority for chief executive Lyall Gorman.
Ennis is exactly the type of wily veteran Holmes needs alongside him to help continue his rugby league rise.
“I’m sure he will be in negotiations now, I love him at the club, he is a fantastic leader and it would be great to see him stay,” Holmes told AAP.
“He has brought a lot to the club in that (hooking) role.
“He has a great energy, he is always so enthusiastic in everything that he does, including at training.
“He competes until the end, he wants to win at everything he does and that is what I love about him.”