2023 review: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

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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.

The 2022 season saw Cronulla defy all pundits when they finished the season in second place, spearheaded by new recruit, halfback Nicho Hynes who won the Dally M Halfback and Player of the Year awards as well as the Provan Summons medal.

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.

Turning point

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.

What worked

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.

What didn't work

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.

2023 week-by-week

1Mar 4thSat 7:35pmHSouthsL18-27Pointsbet12,75714th
2Mar 10thFri 6:00pmAParramattaW30-26CommBank16,66310th
3Mar 19thSun 6:15pmACanberraL20-24GIO Stadium14,13412th
4Mar 26thSun 6:15pmASt Geo IllaW40-8Netstrata15,1267th
5Apr 2ndSun 4:05pmHWarriorsL30-32Pointsbet10,8787th
7Apr 14thFri 6:00pmHSydneyW22-12Pointsbet11,4896th
8Apr 22ndSat 5:30pmACanterburyW33-20Accor12,1482nd
9Apr 27thThu 7:50pmHNorth QLDW44-6Pointsbet8,1482nd
10May 6thSat 5:30pmH*DolphinsL16-36Suncorp50,1836th
11May 14thSun 4:05pmAManlyW20-144 Pines10,3584th
12May 20thSat 3:00pmH*NewcastleW26-6C.ex Coffs10,1562nd
14Jun 3rdSat 7:35pmHBrisbaneL12-20Pointsbet12,3184th
15Jun 11thSun 4:05pmAMelbourneL10-54AAMI Park20,2537th
16Jun 18thSun 4:05pmHCanterburyW48-10Pointsbet11,9013rd
18Jun 29thThu 7:50pm
HSt Geo IllaW52-16Pointsbet10,2673rd
19Jul 6thThu 7:50pm
AWests TigersW36-12CommBank9,2154th
20Jul 16thSun 4:00pmAWarriorsL12-44Go Media24,0126th
21Jul 23rdSun 4:05pmHManlyL26-30Pointsbet10,6346th
22Jul 29thSat 7:35pmAPenrithL0-28Bluebet20,6947th
23Aug 5thSat 5:35pmASouthsW26-16Perth45,8146th
24Aug 11thFri 6:00pmHGold CoastW36-6Pointsbet9,7534th
25Aug 17thThu 7:50pm
ANorth QLDW32-12QLD C B17,3185th
26Aug 27thSun 4:05pmANewcastleL6-32McD Jones29,4236th
27Sep 3rdSun 4:05pmHCanberraW24-6Pointsbet12,7506th
EFSep 9thSat 7:50pmHSydneyL12-13Pointsbet12,570-

Best players

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.

2023 player list

BRAILEY, Blayke24251--4--
COLQUHOUN, Jesse216------
FINUCANE, Dale3213----1-
GRAHAM, Wade32202--81-
HAMLIN-UELE, Braden28191--4--
HAZELTON, Thomas24183--12--
HIROTI, Mawene2411--4--
HUNT, Royce28203--121-
HYNES, Nicho272158311871-
KATOA, Sione262513--52--
KAUFUSI, Oregon2419------
KENNEDY, William261914--56--
McINNES, Cameron29233--12--
MOYLAN, Matt32202--8--
MULITALO, Ronaldo232321--84--
NIKORA, Briton25258--321-
RAMIEN, Jesse262511--44--
RUDOLF, Toby27151--4--
TALAKAI, Siosifa262251-22--
TAUKAMO, Siteni18-------
TRACEY, Connor27103--12--
TRINDALL, Braydon2413413-42--
WILLIAMS, Jack26242--8--
WILTON, Teig23176--24--

24 players, average age 26.42yrs

Season snapshot

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)

Club award winners

  • Porter Gallen Medal - Pontifex Player of the Year - Blayke Brailey
  • Steve Rogers Rookie of the Year - Tom Hazelton
  • Members Player of the Year - Will Kennedy
  • Tommy Bishop Player's Player - Blayke Brailey
  • Andrew Ettingshausen Club Person of the Year - Jess Adams
  • Iron Man Award - Blayke Brailey, Briton Nikora, Sione Katoa, Jesse Ramien
  • NRLW Player of the Year - Tiana Penitani
  • NRLW Player's Player - Annessa Biddle
  • NRLW Rookie of the Year - Annessa Biddle
  • Sharks Have Heart Community Award - NRL - Toby Rudolf; NRLW - Jada Taylor
  • Jersey Flegg Greg Pierce Players Player - Noah Lester
  • Jersey Flegg Gavin Miller Player of the Year - Blake Hosking
  • NRL Education Excellence Award - Sam Stonestreet
  • Jersey Flegg Education Excellence Award - Kristian Dixon
  • NRLW Education Excellence Award - Andie Robinson

Looking ahead

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.

Best 17 for 2024

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