While the 2018 #NRL Pre-Season is still a few weeks away, there's a bunch of warm-up clashes happeni...
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Down, down Cronulla as the boys from Woolooware fail to defend their title.
The Sharks came into the 2017 season for the first time in their history as the defending premiers and seemed keen and capable of staging a genuine crack at back to back titles, due to the minimal changes to their roster, and with the added confidence of having broken their Premiership drought.
The reality was far different - all year their attack misfired and never really clicked, as they fell back into the 'Sharks of old', just grinding out narrow wins.
While they finished fifth and were still highly regarded as premiership contenders, they were eliminated by the Cowboys in week one in a game they were expected to win comfortably.
In the penultimate round of the season, the Sharks were in fourth place, facing the third placed Roosters, who they'd flogged 44-12 in Round 17. A win would've seen them jump the Tricolours on the ladder, but they stumbled to a 16-14 loss. If they had've won that match, they would've remained in the top 4 and got a second chance in the finals.
It wasn't to be - the loss dropped them to fifth and they lost their sudden death opening finals match to the Cowboys, ending their season.
Only one side had a better defensive record in 2017 than the Sharks and that was the eventual Premiers Melbourne. Despite having one of the oldest and most experienced forward packs in the games history, they still proved to be a formidable defensive unit.
After Maloney helped to bring Premiership glory to the Sharks in 2016, his form at the back end of 2017 was a long way from his best. Last year the club had Michael Ennis and Ben Barba to fall back on to support the halves, but this year rookie rake Jayden Brailey and Valentine Holmes struggled to replace those players, despite having good years themselves. Holmes is a genuine ball runner and still has to develop his ball playing game while Brailey is still finding his feet in the side. Ultimately, the black, white and blue attack didn't click in 2017.
Matt Prior had another stunning season and looks to be getting better every year. Paul Gallen had much more impact this year thanks to playing less minutes and being available every week, having retired from rep footy after the 2016 Origin series.
Valentine Holmes showed he is a very reliable and capable fullback who just needs to work on his ball playing ability to become close to the best custodian in the world. Jayden Brailey had a very good debut season, especially in the back half of the year. Wade Graham was very strong again and his defence continues to improve to the point that he is a genuine hard hitter now.
The Sharks NYC side finished the season as Minor Premiers, a whopping 7 premiership points clear of the second placed Panthers. However it meant little as the Cronulla Under 20's bowed out of the finals in straight sets, losing 35-22 to Parramatta in the first week and then thumped 42-22 by Manly the following week.
In the Intrust Super Premiership, the Sharks feeder team Newtown had a season to forget as they ran second last.
The Sharks have had a bit of a shake up for next year, with the major losses of Jack Bird, Gerard Beale, Jeremy Latimore and Chris Heighington along with fringe players Fa'amanu Brown, Daniel Mortimer and Manaia Cherrington. They've bought well though, bringing in Josh Dugan, Aaron Gray and Ava Seumanufagai.
Their depth may be a little tested next year, especially in the forwards if veterans Luke Lewis or Paul Gallen get injured. They'll be seen as a genuine top 6 side again in 2018, but without having rectified the loss of playmaking spine members Ennis and Barba, they could well have a similar run to 2017 next year.