Chad Townsend back to face Cronulla Sharks

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 05:00 05/04/2014
Chad Townsend
Photosport
HE'S BACK: Chad Townsend is due to play against his old team the Sharks.

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Jeff Robson appreciates the position Chad Townsend was in at the Cronulla Sharks so understands why the playmaker has opted to reinvigorate his NRL career at the NZ Warriors.

Townsend, a Sutherland Shire local, fulfilled a sporting ambition when he made his NRL debut in 2011 and played 11 times for the club he grew up supporting.

But in the two following seasons he made just eight appearances due to the signing of New South Wales five-eighth Todd Carney.

Those limited opportunities prompted the 23-year-old to join the Warriors at the end of last season - a tactic Robson has had to revert to twice during a first grade career that began in 2004.

While Townsend was frustrated at only playing for the Sharks if Carney was unavailable due to injury or State of Origin commitments, he was still more active at his first club than Robson who managed only six NRL games during five seasons at Manly.

''Matt Orford was the No 1 halfback there. I was only getting a handful of games so I can identify with Chad,'' said Robson, who eventually headed to Parramatta for three seasons.

At the Eels he played halfback in the 2011 Grand Final loss to the Melbourne Storm but the signing of Chris Sandow for 2012 meant Robson was again on the outer - and on the lookout for an alternative.

The move has paid off with the 31-year-old establishing a halves combination with Carney that draws comparisons with the dynamic that Townsend and Shaun Johnson are in the process of developing in Auckland.

''Chad's a lot like myself, a steady player and not as flairy as Todd and Shaun. I definitely see our combinations as very similar,'' said Robson, who has an outside chance of making his season debut against the Warriors at Remondis Stadium today.

Robson required surgery to mend a fractured eye socket and cheekbone - inflicted during a pre-season trial with the Wests Tigers in February. A calf strain then cropped up although he ran freely at training this week, and he may come in for Daniel Holdsworth.

Considering the winless Sharks are propping up the table thanks to scoring only 28 points in four matches, Robson is anxious to contribute and catch up with a player he enjoyed mentoring.

The veteran is well-placed to appraise Townsend's game given he was at halfback in seven of his eight appearances in 2012-13.

''I tried to help him out as much as I could but he doesn't need much,'' Robson told Fairfax Media.

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''He's a confident young kid and he's got great skills.

''He's got a good level head on his shoulders, he's a good talker round the field and he's got a very good kicking game. The boys all know that [kicking game] and they'll be out there to try and nullify his attributes.''

- Stuff

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