Thursday, 14 February 2013

Season Preview - Cronulla Sharks (2011)

A new coach, a smattering of youth in the halves and the backline and a world class pack of old hard heads is something that should have everyone in the Shire salivating.

But, much to their chagrin, they have sorely missed having a consistent quality halfback in the side since Kimmorely left after 2008. And after Tim Smith's 2010 campaign, there are still some question marks in this all so vital position.

A full season and off-season for Tim Smith, a youthful and exciting halves partner in former Panther Wade Graham and all of a sudden, the Sharks begin to look a little more exciting.

That pair stand behind one of the most awesome looking forward packs assembled in many years in the NRL, on paper at least, with new recruit, Kiwi test player Jeremy Smith joining Kangaroo's Paul Gallen and Anthony Tupou up front, with ever reliable front rowers Kade Snowden and Luke Douglas.

In the backline, the Sharks have Colin Best returning to join exciting young guns Nathan Gardner, Nathan Stapleton and Isaac Gordon as well as seasoned players like Ben Pomeroy, Dean Collis and John Williams.

The Sharks, to their credit have removed the deadwood, backed a lot of youth in key positions and look set to be playing with the attitude of ‘we've got nothing to lose.'

Cronulla won't be looking to win a title this year. Everyone knows that. But, they will hope to be pushing the top 8. Their main priorities this season should be consistency on the field, reliability in the halves and as always, a little bit of luck occasionally.

Can the Sharks make the finals? Possibly, but their main goal for 2011 should be rebuilding, consistency and strengthening the core players at fullback, halves and hooker.

Over the past 2 season these 4 positions have been unreliable and inconsistent. If Aiton, Smith and Graham can hold down their spots with strong consistent performances, then it's just a matter of hoping someone will step up to the plate and make the fullback position their own. The sharks have sorely missed Brett Kearney, but hopefully the experience and hard rough endured by Nathan Stapleton will see him lift his game to the next level in 2011.

Player To Watch – Johnny Mannah
With the horrors of cancer all but behind him, and the success of his brother last season, Mannah will be excited and champing at the bit to get out there and show the world that he is just as good as his brother. And he won't disappoint. His eagerness will be contagious through the Sharks team, especially the young guys in the halves and backs, and this will only be a good thing.

Rookie To Watch – Stewart Mills
Surprisingly, some may think, that Mills is tipped as a rookie to watch. But with so much importance placed on the fullback role, it may actually turn out that we get to see the Yarrawarrah junior make his debut in 2011 and prove to be the very cool head in a pivotal position. However, he will have a tough time unseating incumbent custodian Nathan Gardner.

Gains: Wade Graham (Penrith), Jeremy Smith (St.George-Illawarra), Colin Best (Souths), John Williams (North Queensland), Ryan Tongia (Gold Coast), Andrew Clayton (Brisbane), Kose Lelei (Canterbury)

Losses: Trent Barrett (Retired), Blake ferguson (Canberra), Kyle O'Donnell (Newcastle), Luke Covell (retired), Grant Millington (Canterbury), Josh Lewis (Toulouse), Reece Williams (Retired), Adam Cuthbertson (St. George-Illawarra), Lancen Joudo (North Queensland)

Best Line-up
1 - Nathan Gardner; 2 – Isaac Gordon, 3 – Ben Pomeroy, 4 – Dean Collis, 5 – Colin Best; 6 – Wade Graham, 7 – Tim Smith; 8 – Kade Snowden, 9 –Paul Aiton, 10 – Luke Douglas, 11 – Anthony Tupou, 12 – Paul Gallen, 13 – Jeremy Smith

14 - John Morris, 15 – Johnny Mannah, 16 – Josh Cordoba, 17 – Jason Bukuya

Round 1 @ Canberra
Round 2 vs St.George-Illawarra
Round 3 @ Penrith
Round 4 vs Warriors
Round 5 vs Manly
Round 6 @ Newcastle
Round 7 vs North Queensland
Round 8 @ Souths
Test & CvC 
Round 9 Bye
Round 10 vs Sydney Roosters
Round 11 @ Parramatta 
State of Origin I
Round 12 @ Melbourne
Round 13 vs Brisbane
Round 14 Bye
State of Origin II
Round 15 @ Canterbury
Round 16 @ Gold Coast
Round 17 vs Souths
State of Origin III
Round 18 vs Canberra
Round 19 @ St.George-Illawarra
Round 20 vs Newcastle
Round 21 @ Brisbane
Round 22 vs Gold Coast
Round 23 vs Canterbury
Round 24 @ Sydney Roosters
Round 25 @ North Queensland
Round 26 vs Wests Tigers

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