The Cronulla Sharks could be considered the unluckiest team in last years NRL. On the back of rock solid defence the Sharks were competitive in virtually all their regular season matches and narrowly missed the finals with a statistic that read 9 losses by 4 points or less. There is certainly no need for Ricky Stuart to reinvent the wheel this year, if he can get the Sharks to produce an extra 10% across the board they will be there at the business end of the season.
The Sharks players themselves will be surely be primed to take the next step forward this season. It seams that while many of the players bare little known names, coach Ricky Stuart might have the nucleus of a premiership winning squad â€“ a group of tough, skilful, big bopper forwards, a creative and dynamic halves combination and an pacey backline.
The injury curse that haunted the Sharks during the 2007 NRL could be the silent killer that derails their campaign. One of the weaknesses for the Sharks is depth, as they lack the quality backup talent of other NRL clubs. If the Shire boys can reverse those narrow defeats of last year into solid victories, then a Top 8 birth will be all but theirs for the taking.
While some punters might feel that Brett Kimmorley and Greg Bird hold the keys to the Sharks 2008 NRL chances,Â I believe that the Cronulla forward pack is more influential. Luke Douglas, Ben Ross and Jacob Selmes will provide the go forward, while Paul Gallen and Lance Thompson will provide their teammates with the all important second phase play.
The Sharks also have a dynamic hooking duo in rotation, through Isaac De Gois and Brett Kearney, and expect to see the likes of either Dave Simmonds or the talented Mitch Brown to reap the rewards from any opportunities created up the middle.
Depth in the forwards isn’t an immediate worry for coach Ricky Stuart, however will be praying that injuries donâ€™t bring down their backline. Blake Green, Brett Kearney and Brett Seymour can readily step into the halves, but the Sharks will be struggling for raw speed if Simmonds, Brown or Covell go down. With coach Stuart already playing ex-forwards Anderson and Pomeroy in the centres, it only leaves Misi Taulapapa and utilities David Cooper and Paul Stephenson with top grade experience to fill the void.
Cronulla Sharks likely 2008 Starting Squad:
1- Mitch Brown
2- David Simmonds
3- Fraser Anderson
4- Ben Pomeroy
5- Luke Covell
6- Greg Bird
7- Brett Kimmorley
8- Luke Douglas
9- Isaac De Gois
10- Ben Ross
11- Paul Gallen
12- Lance Thompson
13- Karl Filiga
14- Brett Kearney
15- Jacob Selmes
16- Reece Williams
17â€“ Eddie Sua
2008 Trial / Pre-Season Matches:
23/02/08 v South Sydney Rabbitohs @ Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
01/03/08 v Newcastle Knights @ Cessnock
2008 Player AcquisitionsÂ and Departures:
Kade Snowden (Newcastle), Blake Green (Parramatta), Bryan Norrie (Penrith), Karl Filiga (Canterbury), Jarryd Hogan (Sydney Roosters), Alex Butschies (Byron Bay)
Anthony Watts and Dayne Weston (North QLD), Adam Dykes (Hull), Matt Raferty (Parramatta), Cameron Ciraldo (Newcastle), Robert Worsley (Canterbury), Sitaleki Timani (Super 14 â€“ Western Force)