2024 NRL Jerseys
55 days ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Cronulla looked like a club ready to double their premiership tally in 2023, but it quickly unravelled as they struggled against the best in the competition. Andrew Ferguson analyses their campaign this year.
They then meekly exited the finals series with back-to-back losses, saving their absolute worst for last when South notched a dominant 38-12 victory to eliminate the Sharks.
Despite this, hopes were high within the Sharks club that 2023 would build upon their 2022 performance and see them as one of the genuine contenders for the Premiership. They kept the majority of their squad intact, basically putting themselves in the perfect position for a strong 2023 campaign.
They opened the season with 5 different performances in a row, scoring wins in Rounds 2 and 4 against Parramatta by 4 and the Dragons by 32 respectively. They lost the other 3 games against Souths by 9, Canberra by 4 and the Warriors by 2. They then won 5 of their next 6 games between 2 byes to move them into second place.
After two strong wins against cellar dwellers Dragons and Tigers, Cronulla lost 3 straight games to drop down to 7th. They then went on to win 4 of their last 5 games to finish sixth. They then suffered a narrow 1 point loss to the Roosters in the first week of the finals, ending their season disappointingly.
The Sharks 2023 season, at first glance, looked solid, but a closer look shows a complete failure to compete with the top sides. Their record against the teams that finished in the top 8 at the end of the season was a miserly 3 wins from 10 games.
Round 21 - It may seem odd, but the Sharks Round 21 game against Manly, which the Sharks lost by just 4 points, also saw the Sharks lose captain and lock Dale Finucane to a bicep injury, ruling him out for the rest of the season. Finucane's loss had an immediate impact on the Sharks, particularly their middle defence.
The following week the Sharks also lost gun fullback William Kennedy, for the rest of the season to injury, as Cronulla went down to defending premiers Penrith 28-0.
The Sharks attack was genuinely improved in 2023, scoring on average 2 extra points per game, ranking them fifth for attack. 2023 was the Sharks second best season in their history in regards to points scored, behind their 2002 season.
Their defence. In 2022 Cronulla's defence was the third best in the NRL, conceding a stingy 15.17 points per game, but in 2023 they conceded almost a converted try more per game, which completely negated the improvement in their attack. This was the sole reason why they consistently struggled against the top sides for the whole season.
|1||Mar 4th||Sat 7:35pm||H||Souths||L||18||-||27||Pointsbet||12,757||14th|
|2||Mar 10th||Fri 6:00pm||A||Parramatta||W||30||-||26||CommBank||16,663||10th|
|3||Mar 19th||Sun 6:15pm||A||Canberra||L||20||-||24||GIO Stadium||14,134||12th|
|4||Mar 26th||Sun 6:15pm||A||St Geo Illa||W||40||-||8||Netstrata||15,126||7th|
|5||Apr 2nd||Sun 4:05pm||H||Warriors||L||30||-||32||Pointsbet||10,878||7th|
|7||Apr 14th||Fri 6:00pm||H||Sydney||W||22||-||12||Pointsbet||11,489||6th|
|8||Apr 22nd||Sat 5:30pm||A||Canterbury||W||33||-||20||Accor||12,148||2nd|
|9||Apr 27th||Thu 7:50pm||H||North QLD||W||44||-||6||Pointsbet||8,148||2nd|
|10||May 6th||Sat 5:30pm||H*||Dolphins||L||16||-||36||Suncorp||50,183||6th|
|11||May 14th||Sun 4:05pm||A||Manly||W||20||-||14||4 Pines||10,358||4th|
|12||May 20th||Sat 3:00pm||H*||Newcastle||W||26||-||6||C.ex Coffs||10,156||2nd|
|14||Jun 3rd||Sat 7:35pm||H||Brisbane||L||12||-||20||Pointsbet||12,318||4th|
|15||Jun 11th||Sun 4:05pm||A||Melbourne||L||10||-||54||AAMI Park||20,253||7th|
|16||Jun 18th||Sun 4:05pm||H||Canterbury||W||48||-||10||Pointsbet||11,901||3rd|
|18||Jun 29th||Thu 7:50pm||H||St Geo Illa||W||52||-||16||Pointsbet||10,267||3rd|
|19||Jul 6th||Thu 7:50pm||A||Wests Tigers||W||36||-||12||CommBank||9,215||4th|
|20||Jul 16th||Sun 4:00pm||A||Warriors||L||12||-||44||Go Media||24,012||6th|
|21||Jul 23rd||Sun 4:05pm||H||Manly||L||26||-||30||Pointsbet||10,634||6th|
|22||Jul 29th||Sat 7:35pm||A||Penrith||L||0||-||28||Bluebet||20,694||7th|
|23||Aug 5th||Sat 5:35pm||A||Souths||W||26||-||16||Perth||45,814||6th|
|24||Aug 11th||Fri 6:00pm||H||Gold Coast||W||36||-||6||Pointsbet||9,753||4th|
|25||Aug 17th||Thu 7:50pm||A||North QLD||W||32||-||12||QLD C B||17,318||5th|
|26||Aug 27th||Sun 4:05pm||A||Newcastle||L||6||-||32||McD Jones||29,423||6th|
|27||Sep 3rd||Sun 4:05pm||H||Canberra||W||24||-||6||Pointsbet||12,750||6th|
|EF||Sep 9th||Sat 7:50pm||H||Sydney||L||12||-||13||Pointsbet||12,570||-|
William Kennedy seems to improve every year. He was in career-best try scoring form, crossing for 14 tries in just 19 games, while being safe at the back, making good yardage from kick returns and playing a pivotal role in backline plays.
Ronaldo Mulitalo was also in brilliant try scoring form in 2023, scoring 21 tries in 23 games. It was also his best season defending kicks making him one of the top wingers in the game.
Blayke Brailey continues to improve every year pairing his already good attacking game with a bigger focus on his defence this year. His durability has also seen him play every game for the last 3 seasons.
Cronulla didn't introduce any rookies into the NRL in 2023, but prior to the season starting they would have almost certainly been planning to integrate Kade Dykes into the NRL side, to be the long term halves partner of Nicho Hynes.
Dykes though suffered a season-ending knee injury during the pre-season. He will be ready to fire in 2024 and keen to make up for the time he lost this year.
24 players, average age 26.42yrs
Coaches: Craig Fitzgibbon (24), Josh Hannay (1)
Captains: Dale Finucane (13), Wade Graham (7), Nicho Hynes (5)
Biggest home crowd: 12,757 (vs. Souths in round 1)
Average home crowd: 11,090
Top pointscorer: Nicho Hynes (187)
Top tryscorer: Ronaldo Mulitalo (22)
The Sharks are again opting to go into the upcoming season with barely any changes to their roster. In fact, the only change to their 2023 squad is the loss of Wade Graham who has retired. With Finucane and Kennedy back from injury, the Sharks will be keen to get Dykes into the playmaking duties, via a specialist bench role in 2024 most likely.
Their attack will continue to be very strong but you can be assured that they will again be focusing most of their efforts in the off-season rectifying their defensive failings. There's no reason why they cannot retain their place in the top 8 and they have the potential and capabilities to go deep into the finals.
based on current signings at time of writing
1 - William Kennedy
2 - Sione Katoa
3 - Jesse Ramien
4 - Kayal Iro
5 - Ronaldo Mulitalo
6 - Braydon Trindall
7 - Nicho Hynes
8 - Braden Uele
9 - Blayke Brailey
10 - Oregon Kaufusi
11 - Briton Nikora
12 - Teig Wilton
13 - Dale Finucane
14 - Toby Rudolf
15 - Siosifa Talakai
16 - Royce Hunt
17 - Kade Dykes