Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend dismisses the notion the club is on the wane following their NRL premiership breakthrough, insisting the sky is the limit for the next few seasons.
While celebrations following their maiden title triumph are still going at Sharkies Leagues Club, questions are being raised about their ability to stay at the top.
Coach Shane Flanagan will spend the summer working out how to replace retiring hooker Michael Ennis after the veteran No.9 had proved the catalyst to their grand-final breakthrough.
He has a host of options in under 20s player of the year Jayden Brailey, Wests Tigers import Manaia Cherrington and utility Nu Brown, however bookmakers are already expecting their stocks to fall next year.
They have been installed on the fourth line of betting by bookmakers behind North Queensland, Brisbane and Melbourne for the 2017 title because of queries about instability in their spine.
However, Townsend was having none of that argument, saying their premiership window wasn’t about to be shut, talking up their chances of becoming the first back-to-back title winners since Brisbane in 1992-93.
“Losing Michael is going to be a big loss for us but we’ve got a young hooker named Jayden Brailey,” Townsend said.
“It’s going to be exciting for him.
“Our backline are all young – they can score tries. For us, the sky is the limit. If we can build on what we did this year, who knows what we can do? It’s exciting to be a part of.”
Flanagan has already asked Ennis to stay involved in the club to help mentor their next generation of hookers.
It remains to be seen if Brailey, 20, will be ready for first grade next year but he is considered the club’s long-term replacement for Ennis.
Flanagan might have shown his hand by recruiting Cherrington on a one-year contract with the view to bringing Brailey through slowly next year.
Brailey is described as a workaholic and had his first taste of first grade at this year’s Auckland Nines, brought into the squad after Valentine Holmes was sent home for breaking curfew during Queensland Emerging Origin camp.