Cronulla Sharks 2006 season preview

Likely squad: David Simmons, Luke Covell, Ben Pomeroy, Beau Scott, Darren Albert, Nigel Vagana, Brett Kimmorley, Ben Ross, Kevin Kingston, Lance Thompson, Reece Williams, Phil Bailey, Paul Gallen
Interchange: Hutch Maiva, Luke Douglas, Clifford Manua, Matt Hilder

Strengths:

The Sharks have one of the best halfbacks in the competition directing them around the park. If Brett Kimmorley has an injury-free year and is able to handle the increased ball carrying, then the Sharks can push the top 8.

They have purchased quite well for next season. They have replaced stalwarts Jason Stevens and Danny Nutley with Origin prop Ben Ross and former Dragon Lance Thompson.

The Sharks also have a very formidable and mobile forward pack for next season. They do not have a large forward pack in size, but they have a very mobile pack that has a lot of skill. With the likes of rising stars Luke Douglas and Clifford Manua the Sharks have a solid forward foundation for 2006.

They have purchased great depth for their junior ranks. They raided the Bartercard Cup and the Junior Kiwis? teams and managed to secure some of the most exciting talent in New Zealand. Some of which will be working their way to first grade very shortly.

The move to play Nigel Vagana at five-eighth is a smart move by the Sharks. He is a very good ball runner and will create many opportunities for the Sharks to score points in 2006.

Weaknesses:

The pressure on Brett Kimmorley will be tremendous. Two years ago, before the Sharks acquired Adam Dykes, they relied heavily on Kimmorley for their creative playmaking. Kimmorley was touching the ball 3-4 times a set, something he has found in the past he is uncomfortable doing. With Vagana not being a creative ball player, rather a ball runner, Kimmorley will be under a lot more pressure with the ball in hand this season. This could mean the Sharks have too much of a one-dimensional attack.

The Sharks have lost a lot of experience and their team has a massive new look. Clubmen David Peachey, Jason Stevens and Danny Nutley have gone and this will affect the environment and culture within the club.

Their inexperienced backline could also be a problem for the Sharks. Aside from veteran Darren Albert, who is returning from the UK, the Sharks? three-quarters are very inexperienced.

One to Watch:

Pee Wee Moke is one of the most promising centre prospects in the game today. The 19 year old, 182cm and 89kg centre is looking to push for First Grade honours this season after a disappointing season with the Roosters.

A member of the premiership winning and undefeated Roosters Jersey Flegg team, he was not getting the opportunities he was craving at the Roosters and has linked up with the Sharks for this season. In doing so the Sharks have secured a great centre talent and if he gets a chance in First Grade he will not go down without a fight. He is a well built and fast individual with great footwork, similar to Paul Whaitura. If Cronulla want to have their backs firing on all cylinders this season, they need to give this young man a shot.

Gains and Losses:

Gains: Ben Ross, Ben Pomeroy, Lance Thompson, Darren Mapp, Darren Albert, Tevita Latu, Brett Kearney, Ryan Borg.

Losses: Jason Stevens, David Peachey, Danny Nutley, Michael Sullivan, Nathan Merritt, Paul Mellor, Keith Galloway, Bryson Goodwin, Jon Green, Russell Aitken, Ryan McGoldrick, Vince Mellars

Assessment:

The Cronulla Sharks have a team that can surprise a lot of people. They have a solid nucleus of forwards, but I believe the lack of experience in the backline aside from Darren Albert and the sole reliance on Brett Kimmorley in the playmaking role will mean the Sharks will struggle this year.

The Sharks have no depth whatsoever in the halfback role losing back up Russel Aitken to the Cowboys. If Kimmorley gets injured, it will be curtains for the Sharks? chances and they will get the wooden spoon. If Kimmorley stays fit, then they are a chance to push the top 8. But the Sharks are a young team with potential and this season will set a good platform for things to come.

My prediction ? 11th-15th.

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