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Cronulla's World Sevens
It's traditionally a dangerous practice to base predictions on form from the World Sevens. While fundamentally remaining the same game, the rule changes effectively ensure that individual performances are more important than teamwork and in depth strategizing.
However, while the sevens tournament is a poor test to judge form, it offers an excellent opportunity to guage the skill levels of each team's players. And, if the form at the sevens are to be believed, Cronulla's players are looking more skilful than ever.
During Chris Anderson's reign as head coach, the backs often looked under-coached and raw. Many of them suffered handling problems and troubles with defensive technique. However, under the tutelage of Stuart Raper and Andrew Ettingshausen, many of these shortcomings from the past appear to have been remedied.
The players displayed some rare glimpses of creativity which was stifled in the past. Flick passes inside and out were the order of the day for Cronulla. This newfound creativity worked wonders against their pool opponents, where the Sharks were successful in knocking down favourites Parramatta, as well as Widnes and NSW Country to finish at the top of the group.
A solid performance against eventual winners Wests in the quarter finals was not enough to get them home.
Starring individually was new recruit Nathan Merritt, who topped the tryscoring charts with seven and finished high up the total pointscoring tally with 34. Merritt looks to be the frontrunner for one of the heavily sought after wing positions.
Ryan McGoldrick also looked strong before bing stretchered off with concussion on the first day. The only other injury suffered was by Jason Kent, who will miss four weeks of the pre-season with medial ligament damage.