IT was a case of same old, same old for Cronulla fans this weekend. Lulled into a false sense of optimism by sweeping off-season changes to the team?s structure, the Sharks imploded against a gritty Tigers team in a game that could be summarised as simply being scrappy. If Cronulla don?t learn a thing or two about attacking in the next week, they could very easily cop a walloping by the slick looking Bulldogs in round two.
WHILE many good critics have anticipated a drastic rise in fortune for the Tigers this season, Cronulla have sneaked through the pre-season with barely a hint of publicity. Both clubs have stocked up on new players to complement those already on their roster and both clubs experienced a surge in good form towards the latter half of 2003. However, despite the parallels between both clubs, all the weight of expectation sits heavily across gold, black and white shoulders in 2004.
CRONULLA have named a near full strength team for their opening round match with the Wests Tigers. Nigel Vagana is the only notable omission, although the Sharks lose nothing with the chosen replacement, Australian international Phil Bailey.
THIS season Cronulla have been ranked distant outsiders. Coming from the disaster of 2003, its little surprise that nobody thinks we?re a chance at the eight. Laurie Daley predicted thirteenth, RLW gave us twelfth. However, with a swag of new signings and a year of experience under our belts, the Sharks have a good a shot at the title as anyone. Much of our chances stem from the forward pack and the new found depth therein.
INTERNATIONALS Jason Stevens and Phil Bailey emerged from their first game back from injury unscathed last night, as Cronulla ran in twenty tries to score a big win in an extended trial game in Port Maquarie. Split into three thirty-five minute matches, Cronulla easily dealt with Coffs Harbour (44-0) and Wingham (46-0) before scraping home against the home team Port Maquarie (12-10). The total combined score over the 105 minute game was 102-10.
THE Cronulla Sharks have named a 26 man squad for one final trial match before their season opener against the Tigers. Internationals Phil Bailey and Jason Stevens will pull on a jersey for the first time this pre-season after fully recovering from injuries which had kept them from playing in the club's earlier trials.
AT times, watching the Cronulla Sharks in 2003 was more painful than inserting shards of glass under your eyelids. When they weren't throwing away victory in the dying moments with an ill-timed pass or sloppy tackle, they were being trampled by record margins by such premiership heavyweights as the Tigers and the Eels. Every so often they'd craft a performance decent enough to keep a steady trickle of fans coming through the turnstiles, but at almost no stage did they appear ready to tackle the top teams.
A number of surprise omissions marked the announcement of Cronulla's twenty five man squad yesterday as coach Stuart Raper opted for a youth rather than experience. Jason Kent, Pat Gibson and Andrew Emilio - who have all spent considerably periods of time in first grade - were the most notable names missing from the list.
A young Cronulla squad will travel south to Mollymook to play in a trial match against the Raiders' Premier League squad. The game will offer an opportunity for fringe first graders to put up their hands to challenge for a regular position in the top grade.
STUART Raper has named the squad to tackle the Parramatta Eels in tomorrow night's trial in Ballina. The most notable inclusion is David Peachey, who is making his return to the football paddock after his well documented personal problems.