The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Cougar World Sevens Squad have been working hard in putting the finishing touches on their preparations for this weekends tournament.
The Sharks, who kick off the World Sevens with a game against the defending champions the Parramatta Eels, have announced a squad with both youth and an abundance of NRL experience. They have also opted for speed over size in a bid to cope with the demands of the sevens format.
New Sharks recruits Andrew Lomu and Nathan Merritt will wear the blue, black and white jersey for the first time, while Michael Sullivan, a player who slotted in to a number of different positions including halfback, five eighth and hooker for the club during 2003, has been named as captain.
Sullivan was eagerly awaiting the experience of both playing sevens and of leading the Sharks team for the first time.
?It should be a lot of fun, we?re all looking forward to it,? Sullivan said. ?I missed the early part of last year recovering from a knee injury, which meant I also missed the sevens so it?s good to have the chance this time around.?
While most of the Sharks team will feature faces familiar to league followers, one newcomer excited about the opportunity is local junior Cameron Ciraldo. A 19-year-old from the St Josephs club in the Cronulla-Sutherland district competition, the tall-rangy back rower was already feeling the nerves still a few days out from the start of the sevens competition.
?I could hardly sleep last night after I was told I?d be in the squad,? Ciraldo said on Tuesday after his name had been read out in the 10-man team. ?I?m really excited about it and can?t wait for it to come around.?
Ciraldo was the only player chosen who does not have previous NRL experience, showing coach Stuart Raper?s intentions of wanting to put a competitive team onto the paddock in what will represent his first outing in charge of the Sharks.
As with most of the sides involved in the two-day event, the Sharks will base their game plan on speed, with Merritt and Mathew Rieck among the fastest players in the NRL. Add their talents to those of ball-playing forwards Matt Hilder, Lomu and utility Greg Bird, and the Sharks are enthusiastic about their prospects.
The first match for the Sharks is at 1pm against the Eels, their second is against the Widnes team from the UK at 4.05pm, while their third and final pool match will be played on Sunday against NSW Country who come into the event after winning the World Sevens Qualifying tournament, held at St Mary?s on Wednesday. That match will kick off on Sunday morning at 10.05am.
THE CRONULLA SUTHERLAND SHARKS team for the Cougar World Seven?s