Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks - 2013 Preview
At the start of 2010, no one (other than those in the Shire) would have ever envisaged the rapid improvement of the Cronulla team that has brought them to where they are now.
2013 shapes as being one of Cronulla's most prosperous looking years in a long time, with no off-field distractions, more amazing recruitment, continuously astute management and air of optimism and enjoyment has the Sharks as one of the most dangerous outfits for the upcoming season.
All the injuries which dogged the back end of their 2012 season have mostly been healed, inspirational leader Paul Gallen has had operations done to rectify the niggling injuries which have hampered over past seasons and further improvement to the clubs depth mean Cronulla are not just going to be competitive like in previous years, but they are going to be tough to beat.
Why they'll win it
Paul Gallen is expected to stop being an 80 minute player. Quality backs. Fast backs. Depth. Dominance up-front. Optimism. There are plenty of reasons why the Sharks can win it and they are rightfully tipped to be one of the four favourites to win the premiership in 2013. The quality of depth means that not even injuries or the Origin period should see the Sharks suffer at all. So many key players who suffered with niggling injuries have had these rectified during the offseason meaning Cronulla will have it's healthiest and fittest squad for years.
Throw in the top quality additions to the club in Michael Gordon, Beau Ryan, Luke Lewis, Jonathan Wright and Chris Heighington as well as getting Stewart Mills and Nathan Gardner back from long term injuries and you have players fighting for spots, and players hungry to play. It's a dangerous recipe for opposition teams.
Why they won't win it
The only real reason will be a slow start due to the backline still working on combinations and gelling, as it will be almost entirely different to the backline of the previous year. The only other issues will be the run home. From 2009 to 2012, the Sharks have struggled to win any of their last 9 games of the year. Of the 36 games they've played over the last 9 rounds from 2009-2012, they have lost 31. This is the psychological hurdle the club must overcome.
Player to watch: Michael Gordon
If the former Penrith and NSW Origin speedster can cement his place in the side, especially at fullback, his combination with Carney and running off Gallen's well-timed inside passes, he will be unstoppable and the Sharks will become a potent attacking machine beyond their own wildest dreams.
Rookie to watch - Rodney Coates
The 20 year old front rower is a big unit and is the most likely rookie to make his debut for the Sharks in 2013, purely due to the Sharks having their least depth at prop, not that there's any depth issues there. The Sharks have a number of top quality juniors coming through the ranks, the most notable of these being talented hooker Michael Lichaa.
Michael Gordon (Penrith), Chris Heighington (Wests Tigers), Luke Lewis (Penrith), Beau Ryan (Wests Tigers), Tupou Sopoaga (Canterbury), Jonathan Wright (Canterbury).
Colin Best (retired), Josh Cordoba (retired), Tyson Frizzell (St.George-Illawarra), Jeremy Smith (Newcastle), John Williams (retired)
1 - Michael Gordon, 2 - Beau Ryan, 3 - Ben Pomeroy, 4 - Stewart Mills, 5 - Nathan Stapleton, 6 - Todd Carney, 7 - Jeff Robson, 8 - Bryce Gibbs, 9 - Isaac DeGois, 10 - Ben Ross, 11 - Paul Gallen, 12 - Luke Lewis, 13 - Wade Graham
Interchange: 14 - Andrew Fifita, 15 - Chris Heighington, 16 - Anthony Tupou, 17 - John Morris