After tying down local junior Blayke Brailey and brother of current starting Cronulla hooker Jayden to a new long-term deal in mid-April, something had to give at Cronulla in terms of the salary cap.
Because while Sharks fans would love to hold onto both Brailey brothers, having two first-grade quality hookers on your books long-term and tying such a significant portion of the salary cap to one position is financially irresponsible.
While no doubt the Brailey family was delighted when Blayke extended his stay in the Shire for a further three seasons, his re-signing almost immediately spelled the end of older brother Jayden’s hopes of playing out his career in Sydney’s southern districts.
Enter, the Newcastle Knights. In the final stages of what has been a monumental rebuild and still lacking some quality in the key positions, the Knights signed the elder Brailey to a three-year deal just last week following being released from the remainder of his Sharks contract.
Since the retirement of club legend Danny Buderus at the end of the 2013 season, Newcastle has been searching for a hooker to pick up the slack left by Buderus.
Trialling several hookers in the process, including Adam Clydsdale, Tyler Randell, Danny Levi, Slade Griffin and even bringing in former Dragons outside back Kurt Mann to have a crack at the hooker jersey. So far, all the aforementioned players have flattered to deceive in the Hunter Valley.
However, thanks to the rapid development of the Brailey brothers and the constraints of the salary cap, Newcastle were gifted Jayden on a silver platter. Much like the now-retired Buderus, Jayden is a classic no-frills hooker who will give early ball and tackle all day long with 80-minute performances well within his capabilities.
Akin to the Newcastle region, Brailey is tough, uncompromising and knows what he is about. Three qualities that will immediately endear him to the Newcastle faithful.
While his attitude cannot be questioned, it is his attributes with the football that should excite the red and blue faithful.
As previously mentioned, Brailey is an old-style hooker in that he will give early and reliable ball to his forwards and halves, which bodes well for the Knights. This is because Newcastle relies on quick play the balls and momentum gained by their wrecking ball props David Klemmer and Daniel Saifiti, which provides their attacking weapons Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga with a scattered defensive line to pick apart.
With Brailey currently sitting well above current Knights hooker Danny Levi for receipts (when an attacking player successfully catches or picks up the ball), this should continue the current trend at Newcastle of giving Mitchell Pearce as much ball as possible, with Pearce currently sitting first for all players that aren’t hookers for total receipts in 2019.
For the Knights, this can only be positive with Pearce currently in career-best form and arguably the form halfback in the competition over the majority of the season having been handed the attacking keys to the team.
While the move certainly stacks up well for Newcastle, the Sharks similarly come out of this deal as a winner.
While it is disappointing to lose a promising local junior such as Jayden Brailey, the promotion of Blayke to the starting hooker role next year is a positive for the Sharks with his style of play much more simpatico with Cronulla than that of his brother.
While Chad Townsend is a good controlling halfback and can assert himself on the game no matter the situation, the Sharks’ main attacking weapons, the likes of Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan, are largely reliant on a chaotic ruck and broken defensive line to insert themselves and have an influence on the game due to their flashy skills and nature.
This chaotic ruck is far more likely to be supplied by the dangerous running game that comes with Blayke’s eyes up style of footy, rather than the consistent and reliable Jayden.
While most clubs dread to release a local junior, let alone one who has been tipped for higher honours since his first game in the top grade, the release of Jayden Brailey from the Sharks to the Knights could prove to serve both clubs equally well going forward.