Last season placing: 16th
2015 is a season that should bring redemption for Cronulla following a tumultuous 2014 in which they were ravaged by controversy, injuries and claimed the unwanted wooden spoon. Some positive moves both on and off the field, highlighted by the appointment of CEO Lyall Gorman, formally of the A-League side, the Western Sydney Wanderers have them on steady ground once again. With the ASADA situation behind them, and a steady cash flow from their building developments, the Cronulla side look set for a positive future, starting this year.
Key Players: The Sharks have a mature leadership group, and some good youngsters coming through the ranks. It goes without saying that Paul Gallen is a key man for the club, and with the drama of last season behind him, the Shark’s captain must let his football do the talking, and lead by example not words. Wade Graham showed himself to be a key member of the side in Gallen’s injury absence last year and will once again be seen as a key figure in the playing group.
Some of the pressure on Graham and Gallen will be removed by recruit Michael Ennis, a wise head and a player who team members love to play with (and opposition hate). Expect Ennis to take a leading role in his new club.
Furthermore, the Sharks will rely on recruit Ben Barba to find his feet quickly in his new home in the shire. Barba has been a shadow of his Dally M winning best in recent times, but if the Sharks support and nurture their new five eight, the sky is the limit for Barba. His partnership in the halves with Jeff Robson will go a long way to determining whether the Sharks sink or swim on the field in 2015.
Drawbacks: The sacking of Todd Carney last season was a necessary but difficult action for the club to take. The five eight had been seen as a long term half to lead the club, and his offensive misdemeanour that led to his dismissal has once again left the Sharks needing to rebuild once more.
The loss of young hooker Michael Lichaa is also a blow for Cronulla, with the player many thought would be a stalwart of the club for years to come departing to the Bulldogs.
The Sharks also appear to be short on prop power following the loss Bryce Gibbs (retirement) and Siosaia Vave (Manly Sea Eagles).
However, on a whole, the club looks to be in good stead for the upcoming season, particularly with a squad that is predominantly fit for a full pre-season.
Story of 2015: The recruitment of Ben Barba is set to draw the attention of fans and media, whether for better or worse. Barba is relatively new to the five eighth role and fans will have to be patient as he adjusts to the position in the new club, however if he is given time, rewards for the faith should be shown. Either way, Barba’s season will be well reported.
Ladder: Make the top eight
Top Tryscorer: Sosaia Feki
Top Pointscorer: Michael Gordon
Player of the Year: Wade graham