2022 review: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

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The 2021 season saw the Sharks make the shock decision to dump their coach John Morris, who had performed admirably since taking over from banned Premiership winning coach Shane Flanagan at ridiculously short notice in early 2019.

The Sharks reached the finals, just, in 2019 and 2020 before Morris quit after seeing the writing on the wall early in 2021. The Sharks rallied late but a last round loss to Melbourne saw them drop out of the finals race.

Craig Fitzgibbon was named as his replacement while still working as an assistant coach at the Roosters in 2021, but promptly began making some roster changes, which had a huge and immediately positive impact on the club.

Many pundits believed the Sharks would continue sliding further down the ladder in 2022, but Fitzgibbon's chargers did quite the opposite, finishing second on the ladder behind eventual Premiers Penrith, in what can only be described as a brilliant debut season as coach.

The acquisition of Storm stars Dale Finucane and Nicho Hynes were brilliant and paid immediate dividends. Finucane's leadership and defensive strength made the Sharks middle rock solid in defence. Hynes took to the role of halfback like a Shark to water and finished the season as a clear Dally M medal winner.

Turning Point

Round 12 - The Sharks loss to the Roosters in Round 12 was their 7th straight week where they followed up a win with a loss. The team had a bye the following week and used that time to sort out their defence and improve their consistency. They won all bar one of their remaining 12 regular season games, the solitary loss coming against Penrith. This run saw them rise from 7th on the ladder to 2nd.

What Worked

Hynes at halfback. Hynes had played just 1 game as a halfback in the NRL prior to joining the Sharks, but he was so comfortable in the role from Round 1, that it undoubtedly put the minds of everyone at the club and fans alike, at rest. Hynes goal kicking was poor to start the season but was vastly improved and very reliable by the end of the year. He ended the year having scored 194 points, the 5th highest season tally for the Sharks since 1998.

What didn't work

The Cameron McInnes tactic. McInnes played well all year, this isn't a criticism of his form. More about the role he had. He was mostly covering the lock role, but the Sharks had a wealth of forward depth, especially in the middle where McInnes played, that he wasn't really needed, especially given his size compared to the other forwards. He will almost certainly be a bench utility in 2023 at most.

2022 results

RndDateDayOppositionVenueCrowdRank
1Mar 11thFri 6:00pmACanberraL19-24GIO15,2246th
2Mar 19thSat 5:30pmHParramattaW18-16Pointsbet11,45911th
3Mar 24thThu 7:50pmASt Geo IllaW36-12WIN10,1225th
4Apr 1stFri 6:00pmHNewcastleW18-0Pointsbet8,9273rd
5Apr 10thSun 4:00pmHWests TigersW30-4Pointsbet11,5002nd
6Apr 16thSat 7:30pmAMelbourneL18-34AAMI Park16,2864th
7Apr 21stThu 7:50pmHManlyW34-22Pointsbet9,6113rd
8Apr 28thThu 7:50pmABrisbaneL7-16Suncorp16,7404th
9May 8thSun 4:00pmHWarriorsW29-10Pointsbet9,9154th
10May 15thSun 2:00pmH NCanberraL10-30Suncorp30,4535th
11May 22ndSun 4:00pmAGold CoastW25-18CBUS9,8824th
12May 28thSat 7:30pmHSydneyL16-36Pointsbet11,5007th
14Jun 12thSun 6:00pmAWarriorsW38-16Redcliffe3,5605th
15Jun 18thSat 3:00pmH NGold CoastW18-10C.ex Coffs9,0584th
16Jul 2ndSat 3:00pmACanterburyW18-6CommBank8,8374th
17Jul 7thThu 7:50pmHMelbourneW28-6Pointsbet7,8684th
18Jul 15thFri 6:00pmANorth QldW26-12QLD C.B.15,9824th
19Jul 23rdSat 5:30pmAPenrithL10-20BlueBet17,4263rd
20Jul 30thSat 5:30pmHSouthsW21-20Pointsbet11,4923rd
21Aug 6thSat 7:35pmHSt Geo IllaW24-18Pointsbet11,4273rd
22Aug 13thSat 5:30pmA NWests TigersW36-12Scully Park10,0483rd
23Aug 20thSat 5:30pmAManlyW40-64 Pines12,2433rd
24Aug 27thSat 5:30pmHCanterburyW16-0Pointsbet11,5002nd
25Sep 4thSun 2:00pmANewcastleW38-16McD. Jones16,8082nd
QFSep 10thSat 7:50pmHNorth QldL30-32Pointsbet12,4472nd
SFSep 17thSat 8:00pmH NSouthsL12-38Allianz39,7332nd

Best Player

Nicho Hynes hands down was the Sharks best player in 2022, but he had a supporting cast who were all superb this year as well. Siosifa Talakai started the year as a bench forward but after 3 games he had to take up a role as a starting centre. So good was he, that he earnt a call up to the NSW State of Origin side. Ronaldo Mulitalo was outstanding again on the wing, while Matt Moylan turned back the clock and had one of his best seasons since departing the Panthers. His combination with Hynes developed quickly and proved to be very threatening all season long.

Rookies

Kayal Iro made his NRL debut late in the season and finished the year representing the Cook Islands at the World Cup. Kade Dykes played two games at fullback and did not disappoint. Jesse Colquhoun and Thomas Hazelton also made solid starts to their NRL careers in 2022.

2022 player stats

PlayerAgeAppTGFGPtsBinOff
BRAILEY, Blayke23263--123-
COLQUHOUN, Jesse203------
DYKES, Kade-21--4--
FIFITA, Andrew33221--42-
FINUCANE, Dale3117------
GRAHAM, Wade31181--4--
HAMLIN-UELE, Braden27172--8--
HAZELTON, Thomas231------
HIROTI, Mawene232------
HUNT, Royce27193--12--
HYNES, Nicho26256834194--
IKUVALU, Matt2854--16--
IRO, Kayal201------
KATOA, Sione251614--56--
KENNEDY, William25197--28-1
McINNES, Cameron28252--8--
METCALF, Luke2311--4--
MILLER, Lachlan2873--12--
MOYLAN, Matt31245-121--
MULITALO, Ronaldo222417--68--
NIKORA, Briton24248--32--
RAMIEN, Jesse252310--402-
RUDOLF, Toby26221--4--
TALAKAI, Siosifa25217--28--
TOLMAN, Aiden33211--4--
TRACEY, Connor26146--241-
TRINDALL, Braydon231512-8--
WILLIAMS, Jack266------
WILTON, Teig22246--241-
29 players26.352611085561591

Looking Ahead

The Sharks have made very few changes to their squad for 2023. Andrew Fifita and Aiden Tolman both retired while Luke Metcalf moved to the Warriors.

The Sharks have signed impressive young Eels forward Oregon Kaufusi.

2023 Best 17

at the time of writing

1. William Kennedy
2. Sione Katoa
3. Jesse Ramien
4. Connor Tracey
5. Ronaldo Mulitalo
6. Matt Moylan
7. Nicho Hynes
8. Toby Rudolf
9. Blayke Brailey
10. Braden Hamlin-Uele
11. Briton Nikora
12. Wade Graham
13. Dale Finucane

14. Teig Wilton
15. Royce Hunt
16. Siosifa Talakai
17. Oregon Kaufus