Record: 15 wins, 9 losses
Ladder: 5th position
Player of the Year: Paul Gallen
After an overwhelmingly successful 2016 season, winning their first ever Premiership as a club, the Sharks naturally wanted to go back-to-back, however unfortunately for them they failed to do so, missing out on the top four of the ladder, and being dismissed from the competition after playing a gut-wrenching match against the Cowboys at Allianz, who won in extra time by a field goal.
It was a relatively strong season from the side, always being in the race for a finals finish, however they didn’t finish as high as they would have hoped, with the Parramatta Eels rounding out the top four. The Sharks sat fifth, though could potentially have fallen lower depending on the teams who were surrounding them. In the first fourteen rounds of the competition, the Sharks lost only three games, which helped them in a significant way when it came to rounding out the top eight teams to go on and play in the finals series for the 2017 season. They had a few convincing wins, and a few close calls, all of which successfully contributed to their place in the finals, despite it being short lived, which isn’t what they had hoped for by any means.
From round ten onwards the side won on and off, and while they allowed themselves a few opportunities to keep up with the top four, they didn’t, which obviously impacted on their chances in the finals – not giving themselves the second chance to make an impact in the final matches, not to mention the fact that the Cowboys have played very strongly during this finals series. The season that the Sharks had in 2017 was mostly successful, however their exit wasn’t ideal and was rather upsetting to their hopefuls, especially considering their success in the 2016 season. Onwards and upwards in 2018.
Barba and Ennis Departures Had Impact
Obviously two of the Sharks’ best players for the 2016 season were fullback Ben Barba and hooker Michael Ennis, both of whom left before the commencement of the 2017 season. Barba was replaced by Valentine Holmes, who has been a great fullback for the club, however they definitely missed Barba throughout the year. The number nine role was filled by young star Jayden Brailey, replacing the classic niggler Michael Ennis, who was instrumental and of paramount importance to the success of the Sharks in 2016. The departure of Ennis was expected, however Barba came as a surprise following the Grand Final last year, which definitely threw the Sharks in a way they could not completely recover despite the rather convincing season from Valentine Holmes. Shane Flanagan and his Cronulla Sharks definitely missed their two star players from last season, which became evident particularly in the later part of the 2017 NRL season.
Goodness gracious. The Sharks struggled in both attack and defence at times this season, however, the Cronulla side was by far one of the most ill-disciplined sides in the whole competition for this year. They gave away a ridiculous amount of penalties, conceding a total of 186 penalties. They made 283 errors throughout the entire season, which allowed them the opportunity to turn over possession a number of times, leading to them conceding 68 tries and a total of 407 points throughout the entire season. They were one of the most ill-disciplined teams of the season, which was a disappointing effort from the Sharks. The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks have a lot to improve upon during the off season before the commencement of the 2018 NRL season next March.
Gallen’s Good Year
It was a brilliant year from the Sharks’ number 13, Paul Gallen, who was supposedly going to retire at the end of this season, however decided he would stay another year. He won their Player of the Year award, and deservedly so. He played consistently well for his side, leading them to their victories giving them plenty of opportunities during every game they played during the year. He retired from representative football at the end of the 2016 State of Origin series, and it seems to be one of his best decisions he has made. As a result he was able to focus purely on club football, which significantly contributed to his, and the club’s successes in the 2017 season, despite having a disappointing finish. He has been one of their best players, and next year being his last year, Gallen will try and replicate the season he had this year (plus a stronger finals finish) to end a great career with the Sharks and the NRL.
Five in Origin… How Good’s That?!
The Sharks contributed to both the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons during the 2017 Origin series, with four pulling on the pale blue, and a stand alone Valentine Holmes finally getting his first-grade-Origin debut. All five players went well in the Origin series, despite it once again being in the favour of the Queensland side. Andrew Fifita and James Maloney earned starting positions in the Origin side for the Blues, while Jack Bird and Wade Graham started successfully off the bench. All five players deserved their place in the Origin series, and delivered. Should Gallen have played on for another year on the representative field, the Sharks would have had six players in the series. Well done to those players who represented their state this year.
2018 GAINS AND LOSSES
GAINS: Josh Dugan (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2021), Aaron Gray (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2019), Ava Seumanufagai (Wests Tigers, 2019), Braden Uele (North Queensland Cowboys, 2019)
LOSSES: Gerard Beale (New Zealand Warriors), Jack Bird (Brisbane Broncos), Fa’amanu Brown (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Manaia Cherrington (New Zealand Warriors), Jordan Drew (released), Jeremy Latimore (St George Illawarra Dragons), Daniel Mortimer (Leigh Centurions)