The Newsroom previews each team for the 2015 National Rugby League season. Today, the Cronulla Sharks.
Coming off a dismal 2014 season, the Cronulla Sharks will be keen to prove to returning coach Shane Flanagan that they are premiership-material.
Last season – 16th place
In: Ben Barba and Todd Murphy (Brisbane Broncos), Gerard Beale, Jack Bird and Kyle Stanley (St George Illawarra Dragons), Michael Ennis and Mitch Brown (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Jayson Bukuya (New Zealand Warriors), Saulala Houma (Sydney Roosters), Sami Sauiluma (Canberra Raiders).
Out: Todd Carney (Catalan Dragons), Isaac De Gois (Parramatta Eels), Bryce Gibbs, John Morris and Beau Ryan (retired), Michael Lichaa (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Sione Masima and Scott Sorenson (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Mark Mexico (Gatehead Thunder, England), Tupou Sopoaga (Penrith Panthers), Nathan Stapleton (Sydney Roosters), Siosaia Vave (Manly Sea Eagles), Jonathan Wright (New Zealand Warriors).
Strengths: With the addition of high-profile representative players like Ben Barba and Michael Ennis, the Sharks should have no problem improving on their poor 2014 form. A massive spending spree on a star-studded line-up means that it is now time for Cronulla to fire. The return of coach Shane Flanagan has also added a boost to the Sharks.
Weaknesses: On paper the Sharks look the goods – whether they can replicate that on the field is a different story. Their backline has improved, although still looks to be one of the weaker line-ups when compared to other teams. The addition of Ben Barba has added a much-needed half to their line-up, but his form in recent times has hit a slump. He has yet to repeat his stellar form in 2012 which won him the coveted Dally M medal for player of the year. If the Sharks are any chance of being a threat to the competition this year, Barba is the player to decide that.
Key Player: Paul Gallen. The NSW captain is the definitive work-horse of the team, and it seems the Sharks are always more organised when he is playing. If injuries do not interfere, he is sure to inspire the Sharks to a memorable season.
Coach: Shane Flanagan. In his second-coming as coach, Flanagan will be hungry for wins after a frustrating season on the sidelines – he was suspended for the 2014 season after ASADA investigations into banned supplements almost tore the club apart. This will give him the determination to succeed.
Prediction: 8th. The Sharks are still in a re-building phase, but they should put up enough of a fight to make the bottom of the top eighyt. – Ben Potter
Top photo from Naparazzi’s Flickr photostream.