The NRL may need had a troublesome low season as a complete, however the Cronulla Sharks have had the worst of the lot by a substantial distance. Whereas the on-field roster remains to be robust, there will probably be loads to beat for the boys from the Shire in 2019.
Once you consider consistency during the last 5 years within the NRL, the Sharks are proper up there. They’ve needed to undergo issues earlier than as a membership, however this may simply be the straw that breaks the camel’s again.
The low season from hell has seen them lose their coach, have a self-reported wage cap problem which could nonetheless trigger issues between now and the beginning of the season and let a mountain of distractions get in the best way of build-up.
Certain, Paul Gallen reckons the membership are nonetheless centered on enjoying footy and succeeding, however turmoil in a contest as shut because the NRL is a recipe for catastrophe.
With their greatest participant departing over the summer season and a ahead pack getting older, in addition to a significant harm set to strike down the primary half of their season, this may lastly be the season the boys from the Shire drop out of the eight for the primary time since 2014.
Membership truth file
Colors: Black, White and Blue
House grounds: Southern Cross Group Stadium, Cronulla
Minor premierships: 2
Greatest end in final 5 years: 2016 – premiers
2018 end: Fourth – third week of finals
Coach: John Morris
Captain: Paul Gallen
Paul Gallen (c), Wade Graham (c), Blayke Brailey, Jayden Brailey, Jayson Bukuya, Kurt Capewell, Josh Dugan, Sosaia Feki, Andrew Fifita, Kyle Flanagan, Aaron Grey, Shaun Johnson, Sione Katoa, William Kennedy, Isaac Lumelume, Billy Magoulias, Josh Morris, Matt Moylan, Briton Nikora, Matt Prior, Ava Seumanufagai, Scott Sorensen, Cruz Topai-Aveai, Chad Townsend, Braden Uele, Jack Williams, Aaron Woods, Bronson Xerri
Ins: Shaun Johnson (New Zealand Warriors), Isaac Lumelume (promoted), Billy Magoulias (promoted), Josh Morris (Canterbury Bulldogs), Briton Nikora (promoted)
Outs: Kurt Dillon (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Valentine Holmes (NFL), Edrick Lee (Newcastle Knights), Ricky Leutele (Toronto Wolfpack), Luke Lewis (retirement), Joseph Paulo (St Helens), Jesse Ramien (Newcastle Knights), James Roumanos (Canterbury Bulldogs)
You’ll be able to’t get into this with out addressing the elephant within the room. Valentine Holmes goes to observe Jarryd Hayne and take a look at his hand in the US of America, making an attempt to win a contract within the NFL.
Good luck to him, however it’s a mighty disgrace for the NRL. Holmes might nicely have been in line for a Dally M on the finish of 2019 if he saved up the shape on show throughout the second half of 2018, such is the expertise of the person.
He’s going to be practically not possible to exchange, though the Sharks have tried, bringing within the energetic and explosive Warriors half Shaun Johnson.
He headlines the recruitment drive, which additionally consists of veteran centre Josh Morris. With some depth points within the outdoors backs, it’s an essential signing for the membership.
The remainder of their promotions come from promotions out of their growth and NSW Cup squad from final 12 months, whereas the losses from the membership are far better.
The aforementioned depth points within the outdoors backs have come about by way of Edrick Lee, Ricky Leutele and Jesse Ramien shedding the membership, with all three enjoying loads of first grade final 12 months – the lack of Ramien, particularly, being a fear.
Add to all that, Luke Lewis has retired, and there are a heap of huge names leaving the membership with out the replacements to maintain the Sharks on the prime of the tree.
Clearly, Shaun Johnson comes straight in and goes into the backbone, however that is an inconsistent trying one in the important thing positions.
Johnson was really fairly good final 12 months, however has by no means hit his true potential for a full season, though 2018 was really one in all his higher ones.
The signing of Johnson clears up that Moylan will play fullback in a staff with few different choices to play there, however once more, he has had problems with going off in huge video games.
The finals in 2018 are an actual reflection of that, the place he got here up with the products in opposition to Penrith in Week 2, then was shut down and made unhealthy choices all the best way in opposition to the Storm in Melbourne.
At hooker is teen Jayden Brailey who, thus far at the least, hasn’t proven any indicators of going off the boil, which is a constructive for the membership, however perhaps with some deficiencies up entrance early this season, he could also be examined to a degree we haven’t beforehand seen.
The constant and confirmed member of the backbone is Chad Townsend, and his function to run the kicking sport and preserve issues collectively throughout the powerful durations has been extra essential than ever in 2019.
Whereas he isn’t flashy or the perfect half within the sport, the multi-club veteran is a tough employee, and you understand what you’ll get out of him most of the time.
As long as he performs inside himself, he’s going to be a significant asset for the Sharks.
As talked about, the backline has gone beneath main change this 12 months. No Ramien, Leutele or Lee in back-up will do this.
Sosaia Feki and Josh Dugan are nonetheless there on the wing and at centre respectively, and whereas Feki has proven some capacity, you will be by no means be fairly certain what you’ll get out of Dugan.
Josh Morris will even take a beginning spot in Spherical 1, however he’s getting on with age, and whereas his defence is first-class nonetheless, his assault has been missing in a struggling Canterbury outfit the previous two or three years.
Sione Katoa is more likely to take the opposite wing spot, and the highly effective winger has some extent to show.
Ought to there be an harm, anyplace, you may anticipate a reshuffle and younger gun Bronson Xerri to get a run. He has impressed in all of the junior ranges and could possibly be the following huge factor.
The most important downside for the Sharks forwards is the lack of Wade Graham, who is about to overlook the primary three months of the season as he recovers from an ACL harm.
Their different downside is that their two most constant performers – Paul Gallen and Matt Prior – are each getting on in age and will begin slowing down.
Andrew Fifita is an x-factor and can begin up entrance alongside Prior, whereas Bukuya is more likely to be joined within the again row by Kurt Capewell till Graham comes again.
Their depth is missing a bit bit, with Scott Sorensen and teen Jack Williams more likely to be on the bench, though Ava Seumanufagai and Aaron Woods give them loads coming off the pine.
Usually, you’d be inclined to jot down Wade Graham is nearly a lock to play for the Blues, however given he’s more likely to miss each sport earlier than Origin, it’s onerous to see him getting chosen.
Dugan will in all probability be within the image for the Blues, as will Fifita, whereas if the Sharks are performing, there are certain to be shouts for Aaron Woods and Matt Moylan. Woods is extra possible than Moylan, however neither could be in my greatest 17 for the Blues come Origin time.
Nonetheless, the lack of Fifita, particularly, is a giant one, even when just for a sport, the fatigue following the sequence is at all times a giant let-down.
Possible greatest 17
1. Matt Moylan
2. Sione Katoa
three. Josh Dugan
four. Josh Morris
5. Sosaia Feki
6. Shaun Johnson
7. Chad Townsend
eight. Andrew Fifita
9. Jayden Brailey
10. Matt Prior
11. Wade Graham (injured, return approx spherical 12 – Capewell to begin, Sorensen added to bench)
12. Jayson Bukuya
13. Paul Gallen
14. Aaron Woods
15. Kurt Capewell
16. Ava Seumanufagai
17. Jack Williams
Keys to the season
Will Matt Moylan and Shaun Johnson click on?
I’ll say it now – my prediction for Cronulla could possibly be blown out of the water if this clicks.
I wrote an article final 12 months about how Shaun Johnson might grow to be the perfect participant within the sport away from the Warriors, and whereas I don’t suppose it’s going to occur this 12 months, he has the potential to make different sides damage.
Johnson has performed all these years in a facet who’ve commonly gone off the boil, but when there’s one factor the Sharks do, it’s know the way to grind, scrap and defend, so with out the necessity of getting to play common catch-up footy, Johnson might be capable to be extra selective with what he does and let the soccer do the speaking.
Moylan, who has expertise as a half as nicely, might even have a giant 12 months – the truth is, he must.
Whereas he was removed from poor final 12 months, he was out and in of video games an excessive amount of, and did that once more when the strain was on throughout the finals.
The inconsistency of their two most essential gamers may depart Cronulla reeling in huge moments, however this has the potential to be an thrilling mixture if it really works.
Because it stood, they’d 31 strive assists between them final 12 months and had been fourth and fifth total on the checklist, so that they must be doing one thing proper.
Can they put the distractions behind them?
That is in all probability the largest query forward of the Sharks’ season, and admittedly, it doesn’t want quite a lot of explaining.
Shane Flanagan is gone, the sport’s most enjoyable teen Valentine Holmes is gone, the wage cap issues are nonetheless there and the membership have loads to do that season.
The lack of Flanagan can’t be talked about sufficient. He’s a kind of coaches who’ve constantly introduced the perfect out of his facet, and there’s no shock he was the person to interrupt Cronulla’s premiership duck in 2017 in opposition to Melbourne.
John Morris was a stable participant, however changing Flanagan is a big ask, taking up a membership which, off the sector, is a rabble.
If the Sharks can put these distractions behind them although – and that is the place having a roster with quite a lot of expertise in it should assist them – they’re each likelihood of constructing the highest eight.
What is going to the centre mixture do?
Whereas Moylan and Johnson are going to be essential, this veteran centre mixture of Morris and Dugan are going to have a goal on their again – not simply from opposition sides, however from Xerri, who will need to drive his manner into first-grade motion.
Dugan, as we all know, is without doubt one of the greatest ball-runners within the sport. Whereas his passing and creativity leaves loads to be desired, there was a distinction when he was out injured final 12 months.
If he can get again to his greatest, a mixture with Johnson and Moylan could possibly be completely damaging.
Morris, on the opposite facet of the sector, remains to be among the finest defenders within the sport. He has shut down Greg Inglis at Origin degree, and whereas he’s getting on in age, it is a man who wants a giant season for Cronulla to succeed.
A brand new lease on life away from the Bulldogs may enable him to do exactly that.
|Spherical no.||Date||Time (AEDT)||Opponent||Venue||TV|
|1||Fri Mar 15||6:00pm||Newcastle Knights||McDonald Jones Stadium||Fox|
|2||Sat Mar 23||three:00pm||Gold Coast Titans||Shark Park||Fox|
|three||Sat Mar 30||5:30pm||North Queensland Cowboys||1300 Smiles Stadium||Fox|
|four||Sat Apr 6||7:35pm||Parramatta Eels||ANZ Stadium||Fox|
|5||Sat Apr 13||7:35pm||Sydney Roosters||Shark Park||Fox|
|6||Thu Apr 18||7:55pm||Penrith Panthers||Shark Park||9/Fox|
|7||Sat Apr 27||7:35pm||Brisbane Broncos||Suncorp Stadium||Fox|
|eight||Fri Could three||7:55pm||Melbourne Storm||Shark Park||9/Fox|
|9||Thu Could 9||7:50pm||Gold Coast Titans||Suncorp Stadium||9/Fox|
|10||Solar Could 19||four:05pm||Manly Sea Eagles||Shark Park||9/Fox|
|11||Solar Could 26||four:05pm||St George Illawarra Dragons||WIN Stadium||9/Fox|
|13||Sat Jun eight||5:30pm||Parramatta Eels||Shark Park||Fox|
|14||Thu Jun 13||7:50pm||Canberra Raiders||GIO Stadium||9/Fox|
|15||Solar Jun 30||four:05pm||Canterbury Bulldogs||ANZ Stadium||9/Fox|
|16||Solar Jul 7||four:05pm||Brisbane Broncos||Shark Park||9/Fox|
|17||Sat Jul 13||7:35pm||Melbourne Storm||AAMI Park||Fox|
|18||Fri Jul 19||6pm||New Zealand Warriors||Westpac Stadium||Fox|
|19||Thu Jul 25||7:50pm||North Queensland Cowboys||Shark Park||9/Fox|
|20||Sat Aug three||7:35pm||South Sydney Rabbitohs||Shark Park||Fox|
|21||Thu Aug 9||7:55pm||Penrith Panthers||Panthers Stadium||9/Fox|
|22||Solar Aug 18||four:05pm||St George Illawarra Dragons||Shark Park||9/Fox|
|23||Sat Aug 24||3pm||New Zealand Warriors||Shark Park||Fox|
|24||Solar Sep 1||2pm||Canberra Raiders||Shark Park||Fox|
|25||Solar Sep eight||2pm||Wests Tigers||Leichhardt Oval||Fox|
The short breakdown
Groups to play twice: Gold Coast Titans, North Queensland Cowboys, Parramatta Eels, Brisbane Broncos, Melbourne Storm, St George Illawarra Dragons, Canberra Raiders, New Zealand Warriors, Penrith Panthers
Greatest dwelling run: Spherical 19 – Spherical 24 (5 out of 6)
Worst away run: Spherical 14 – Spherical 18 (four out of 5)
5-day turnarounds: three
The Sharks fixture is way from easy. Their double-up groups embody 5 groups who completed alongside them within the prime eight final season, whereas the Titans and Cowboys from outdoors the eight are anticipated to have much-improved seasons.
They do have the Raiders and Eels, however with the unpredictability of the Warriors, the Storm, Dragons, Broncos and Panthers, they gained’t have as many simple video games as they could like.
In addition they have a really powerful stretch on the street all through the Origin interval, which is the one a part of the 12 months you actually don’t need to be travelling. That stretch of 4 video games away in 5 rounds is capped off by back-to-back journeys to Melbourne and Wellington.
They do, nevertheless, play 5 of their subsequent six at dwelling within the run to the finals and whereas they’ve some powerful opponents, the house floor benefit may be very actual for Cronulla, so if they’re on the cusp of the eight with seven rounds to go, anticipate them to finish up in there.
In truth, they’ve gained 25 of their final 36 common season video games at dwelling.
Journeys to Newcastle and Townsville inside the primary three weeks will even give us an thought precisely the place the Sharks are at, and with that powerful street journey within the center, they want a powerful begin.
Sadly, there may be simply an excessive amount of happening off the sector for the Sharks to be on the degree they’ve been beforehand. The harm of Wade Graham for the primary half of the season is one thing of a killer blow, and their pack is getting older, with the premiership window showing all however over.
Valentine Holmes loss is a giant one, and whereas Johnson is an effective signing and has the potential to be the perfect participant within the sport if he will be constant, it appears all a stretch, and like an excessive amount of has to go proper for them to be ending within the prime eight, not to mention the highest 4 once more.
It wouldn’t shock me to see the Sharks grind out some wins, however they simply gained’t be capable to do it constantly sufficient, and can miss the highest eight for the primary time since they gained the spoon in 2014.
Make sure to tune again in on Wednesday as we transfer one other spot up the ladder.
NRL season preview sequence
16th – Parramatta Eels
15th – Canberra Raiders
14th – Manly Sea Eagles
13th – New Zealand Warriors
12th – Canterbury Bulldogs