The Cronulla Sharks once again have promised so much and delivered so little this year. When Ricky Stuart was appointed coach of the Sutherland Shire club – things looked positive for the men from Shark Park as the start of NRL 2007 neared.
While Cronulla don’t have a team littered with superstars there is certainly enough talent in the ranks to make a good impression on the NRL. As the middle of the year rolled around, things were looking good for the Sharks – Ricky Stuart had the team playing some good football, Greg Bird, Paul Gallen and Luke Douglas were now big names and were disposing of quality opposition.
There were big wraps thrown the way of the Cronulla Sharks, Footy Show Panelist Matt Johns declaring – “this Cronulla side is the one that can finally win the competition!” Ok, so that kind of statement adds some pressure, so does the fact that Cronulla have never ever won a premiership – disappointing considering they have now been in the competition for such a long time.
Every NRL team does have to deal with pressure, for some reason the Sharks once again have just not coped with it in 2007. Sure, like other teams the Sharks have experienced large injury problems – but their performance against Manly last weekend showed what they are capable of. However, after their loss yesterday to an understrength Brisbane Broncos side – their season is now over, even winning all their remaining games might not get them into the NRL Top 8 Finals fray.
To compound the problem, the Sharks continue to have one of the worst crowd attendance figures in the NRL. Poor results over the past few years has seen their legion of fans simply fade away. Toyota Park, Shark Park, Caltex Field or Endeavour Field – whatever you want to call it used to be a fortress – with plenty of home town folk crowding into the smallish stadium with a grandstand that doubles as a leagues club. Friday and Saturday night games were always specials to sell-out and ensure Cronulla had huge support as their team rolled to another victory.
While the NRL Top 8 Final series may be lost to the Cronulla Sharks now – Ricky Stuart and his side had better start playing some highly entertaining football and not only win their remaining games – but give the Cronulla Sharks fans something to want to come back for next year – or there may be nothing left in years to come.