2 days ago
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 2018 Preview
Surely a second title isn't going to wait another 50 years. Andrew Ferguson previews a revamped Cronulla outfit ahead of the 2018 NRL season.
The burden of defending a premiership claimed another victim in 2017, when the Sharks failed to go back-to-back after their long awaited breakthrough in 2016. The club lost its attacking mojo in 2017 and reverted back to grinding out wins (with the exception to the pair of beltings they handed out to Canberra and the Roosters).
They have bought astutely for their 2018 campaign, swapping James Maloney for Matt Moylan and replacing the departing Jack Bird with Test back Josh Dugan.
Up front they lost the experienced Chris Heighington, but filled the gap with Tiger tyro Ava Seumanufagai.
They've enhanced their attacking prospects with their purchases in the backs for this year, while beginning the process of replacing veterans in the forwards. The ageless Paul Gallen thrived last year without rep duties on his shoulders, coupled with playing less minutes.
The Sharks will be better in 2018 and should be considered again as serious title contenders.
Why They'll Win It
Experience - They have it in spades, with big game players who have appeared in and won Grand Finals, State of Origin and Test football.
Gallen and Lewis up front paired with Fifita and Wade Graham and the constantly improving Matt Prior are arguably the best pack in the competition and are most definitely the most experienced.
Why They Won't
Spine - The Sharks have quality players in the spine, but only one is a genuinely consistent and brilliant play maker, that being newcomer Moylan.
Holmes at fullback is an amazing ball runner, Chad Townsend is more of a controlling half than a creating one, while Jayden Brailey will be in just his second full season and is still developing his game.
Holmes is a magnificent runner, but really needs to develop his ball skills if he is to justify holding down the fullback spot. He's possibly the best winger in the game right now and has a lot of competition at fullback from Moylan and possibly even Dugan.
Moylan came to the club with the hope of playing in the halves and will be gifted precisely that. The job won't be easy though as he will be the chief chance creator in the side and will be involved a lot more than most five-eighths. Has a lot to prove and the ability to do it.
Rookies To Watch
The young lock has a big motor and is tipped to be the long term replacement for Paul Gallen. Powerfully built, Magoulias is a very strong tackler and ball runner with a very good offload.
Son of coach Shane, Kyle is an impressive halfback whose consistent performances and growth could see him force his way into the top side, which would push Moylan to Fullback and Holmes onto the wing. Or it could see Townsend shuffled out of the side.