STORMING UP | Melbourne joined the Sharks at the top of the ladder with an 18-6 win over the Eels to...
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After a tumultuous season in 2009, the Sharks were not expected to be high achievers, if anything, many expected them to sink lower.
And in some sense, they may have. In 2010 their attack was very slightly less potent and their defence let in more points than in 2009.
The Sharks struggled to find players to fill the key positions of fullback and halfback again in the off-season. They did pick up some quality signings such as talented Wests Tigers centre Dean Collis and utility player John Morris, along with other regular NRL players Paul Aiton (Penrith), Adam Cuthbertson (Manly), and Josh Cordoba (Parramatta), it was clear that depth wasn't going to be an issue for the Sharks in 2010.
Their issue was having an entire squad of quality depth players and few absolute stand out performers. The signing of Tim Smith appeared to rectify that on paper, but he struggled to get back into the groove of playing in an NRL side. At times he showed glimpses of brilliance; however with a year under his belt and a full off-season, he could prove to be one of the top number sevens in the game in 2011.
In 2010, Kade Snowden and Paul Gallen lead the Sharks from Round 1 to Round 24, both deservedly earning a Blues jumper in the process. The Sharks pack was one of the best in the competition and they matched nearly every team in the battle of the big boys.
Nathan Gardner and Isaac Gordon were two of the greatest discoveries this year for the Sharks. These two will find themselves as regulars in the NRL side for many seasons to come after their exciting debut season which showed so much promise.
Unfortunately there were too many. All the hype over youngster Albert Kelly proved to be just that, when he struggled to cope with pace and demands of being an NRL footballer. Adam Cuthbertson was relegated to park footy and found himself so far on the outer, he made Pluto look close. Tim Smith struggled form wise and the Sharks couldn't settle on a regular hooker with Aiton, Flanagan and Morris all having digs in the 9 jumper, but none really claimed the spot as their own. But nothing was more disappointing than Blake Ferguson's off field antics when revealing he was leaving the club.
Again, the Sharks best players were all up front. Paul Gallen is nothing short of a machine and has a heart the size of Phar Lap. He's a combination of the old school hard as nails, gritty tough players mixed with the attacking power and durability of the modern player.
Kade Snowden took massive strides forward in 2010 and with the ever consistent Luke Douglas; they formed a formidable front row pairing. Grant Millington and Anthony Tupou were also both solid throughout the year without being brilliant
The Sharks have turned over yet another coach, when Ricky Stuart revealed toward seasons end he was resigning. Shane Flanagan, his deputy, has been appointed head coach and has some serious work to do over the off season.
The Sharks have good backs and good forwards, but they lack the key men to link them all together and to make things happen. Maybe that was due to the restrictive game plan employed by Stuart more than anything else, but they need to start looking at being an attack driven team. The Sharks possess one of the best packs in the competition in defence, attack and depth. This has been to the detriment of their backs. In 2011 they need to sign a quality fullback and a genuine halfback or five-eighth and settle on a hooker. These 4 men are the spine of a team's attack, structure and guidance.
The Sharks have picked up Jeremy Smith from the Premiership winning Dragons as well as the talented youngster Wade Graham. Colin Best has also made a return to the Sharks. Trent Barrett and Luke Covell have hung up their boots. Blake Ferguson will be with the Raiders in 2011. These players' positions have been covered by the new signings, but it still remains to be seen if they have a strong enough halves pairing to become one of the top 8 sides for next year.
Again, depth will not be an issue for the Sharks, except in the halves. They have few competent halves outside their starting pair, if one of them gets injured, they could struggle. It's important for their pack to look after them all season long.
1 Nathan Gardner 2 Colin Best 3 Dean Collis 4 Ben Pomeroy 5 Isaac Gordon 6 Wade Graham 7 Tim Smith 8 Kade Snowden 9 John Morris 10 Luke Douglas 11 Anthony Tupou 12 Paul Gallen 13 Jeremy Smith
Interchange: 14 Josh Cordoba 15 Johnny Mannah 16 Paul Aiton 17 Siosia Vave
2010 - The vital stats
Played: 24 matches (2 byes)
Won: 7 matches
Lost: 17 matches
Points for: 354 points
Points against: 609 points
Points differential: -255 points
Top pointscorer: Luke Covell (winger) 54 points
Top tryscorer: Nathan Gardner (fullback) 8 tries
Club player of the year