2013 Season Record: 26 games, 15 wins, 11 losses (fifth placed in NRL)
2013 Points Record: 506 points scored, 502 points conceded
2013 Individual Record: Andrew Fifita leading try scorer with 9. Michael Gordon leading points scorer with 112.
Some would be forgiven for thinking the Sharks were sponsored by ASADA in 2013, as their highly publicised drug investigation into the Cronulla club led the headlines for the entirety of the year.
Accusations, rumours and media hype saw the Sharks face a difficult road to success in 2013.
Just two days out from their round 1 clash against the Titans at Shark Park, head coach Shane Flanagan was stood down by the club, in a day that left the door to Cronullas future wide open.
An almighty cheer chorused around Shark Park as one of the darkest weeks in the clubs history ended with a courageous 2 point win against the Titans.
The Sharks were reunited with coach Flanagan a short time later, however the Sharks had hit a dead patch in their season.
After their emotional win over the Titans the Sharks went on to win just 1 out of their following 6 matches.
Just when the investigation looked to have written Cronullas season off the Sharks produced an unlikely golden point win over the Knights that kick started their 2013 fight back.
Top class wins over the Rabbitohs, Roosters and two demolishing wins over the West Tigers throughout the season saw the embattled Sharks finish 5th on the competition ladder at the end of the regular season.
A controversial win against the Cowboys in week one of the finals saw the Sharks continue to defy the odds in 2013.
The Sharks lost key playmaker Todd Carney ahead of their clash with the Sea Eagles in week 2 of the finals and ultimately lacked a touch of the five-eighths class as they fell just short of progressing deep into the finals. A bitter-sweet end for a Sharks team that had fought a relentless battle commendably throughout the 2013.
The Sharks rollercoaster season saw many players step up for the club and the likes of Todd Carney and Andrew Fifita had outstanding seasons.
Five-eighth Todd Carney was undeniably the most influential player in the Sharks 2013 campaign. After Carney was overlooked for the NSW number 6 jersey, the playmaker found career best form.
Todd Carney’s unmatched kicking range and his natural ability to read the game so well saw the Sharks success in 2013 came off the back of outstanding performances from one the most inform players in the competition.
Carney’s impressive form saw him feature highly in the 2013 Dally M race and if it wasn’t for a hamstring injury late in the season I have no doubt Carney would have taken out the top prize.
However Carney’s 2013 form didn’t go unnoticed in Rugby Leagues ‘glamour night’ with the Cronulla number 6 taking out the Five-eighth of the year award.
Todd Carney may have wrongly been left out of the Origin side in 2013 but the maturity and talent of the five-eighth shone through in 2013 as he proved himself as a future leader of the Cronulla club.
Andrew Fifita was another Shark in killer form in 2013.
The rampaging front rower was rewarded for his impressive 2013 form with a State of Origin jumper and Kangaroo selection in the recent World Cup.
Fifita consistently stood up in the absence of Paul Gallen during the season for the Sharks and the strength he showed not just on the field but off it as well saw him prove himself as one of the most improved players in the competition.
The Sharks season was much a team effort despite both Fifita and Carney having stand out seasons in the black, white and blue. Stand in Captain Wade Graham had a remarkable year with the ‘c’ beside his name as he led the Sharks to numerous triumphs throughout the year. Michael Gordon was also impressive at fullback in his first season in Sharks colours. Gordon combined effortlessly with Todd Carney as the attacking weapons in the team.
The ending to this seemingly everlasting drug scandal story may be uncovered in the near or distance future but for now the Sharks are the true winners.
After being ultimately ruled out of any title contention by many in 2013, the Sharks showed true determination and passion to finish highly and put any doubts of the player’s and fan’s strength to rest.
An adversity filled yet character building Sharks season will potentially go down as one of the most inspirational of all time.