Cronulla- Sutherland Sharks
Record (W-L-D): 5-19-0
Top Pointscorer: Michael Gordon (124 points)
Top Tryscorer: Sosaia Feki (9 tries)
2014 is a season Sharks players and fans will want to forget. It took the Sharks five rounds to register their first win, and victories throughout the rest of the season were few and far between.
They struggled throughout the season with major injury issues, and were dogged by off field dramas throughout the whole season, with ASADA a major talking point that reached a head as the season’s end drew nigh.
Anything that could go wrong for Cronulla seemingly did. There main coach was stood down by the NRL before the season began, their stand in coach resigned, and at one stage, their third coach was replaced by a member of their roster, John Morris, due to sickness. And that was before the suspensions to players handed down by ASADA for drug use.
It really was a nightmare.
The very fact that the season is over is a major positive for the Cronulla side. Finding positives in the Sharks season is difficult, but despite the doom and gloom, there are some positives to be found.
The major one is the rise of boom youngster Valentine Holmes. Cronulla fans had been calling for the NYC gun to be tried in the NRL and he didn’t disappoint when he got his chance against the Eels in round 21, setting up two tries in the Sharks losing effort. Holmes was among a number of talented youngsters coming through at the Sharks, with Sosaia Feki again impressing this season, scoring nine tries for the club.
After a mixed start to the year, Michael Gordon was outstanding in the back end of the season, shouldering much of the burden of playing in a young side, and leading them by example.
Another positive was the fact that four of the Sharks five wins came against sides that finished in the top eight, including beating top four side Penrith twice.
One of the most memorable efforts for Cronulla was the loss to the Cowboys in round 25, where a side missing 19 of their 2014 squad pushed the highly fancied Cowboys to golden point before Jonathon Thurston shattered the fairy tale.
The list of negatives for Cronulla is long, and that is without taking in to account the wooden spoon.
The season was marred by the overhanging ASADA threat, which resulted in the suspension of five current Cronulla players for the last few games of the season, including captain Paul Gallen.
Rumours were also flying around early that Todd Carney was returning to his party boy ways, and after photos emerged of the star five eight seemingly urinating into his own mouth, Carney was sent packing by Cronulla in a decision that further split the fans.
Andrew Fifita was later on involved in an alleged road rage incident, though charges were never laid.
Add to that a long injury list that saw the club playing an almost unidentifiable team at times throughout the competition and the Sharks season was always in the doldrums.
The club was reeling when it won an unwanted piece of history, as it went three games, and seven halves of football without scoring a solitary point.
In the circumstances, the fact they won just five games could almost have been forgiven at times.
For long suffering Sharks fans though, it was another season that made them wonder if that elusive premiership will ever be reached.
The Future: 2015
Next year has been the mantra for Sharks fans for a long time, but couldn’t ring truer after 2014.
Seeing the backs of ASADA will be a great relief for players, support staff, fans, and club officials alike. Without that threat hanging over the players heads, they can concentrate on their football again.
However, the players will be reminded by other clubs fans of the controversy for a while to come, so it won’t be all smooth sailing from here.
2014 has seen the blooding of many young players, with so many out of the club for various reasons, and the performance of these players against the Cowboys shows that their is hope for the 2015 season.
The signing of Michael Ennis from the Bulldogs is a great pick up, with the experienced hooker providing a great deal of experience to the Sharks side for the next few seasons. His clever dummy half work will provide the club some much needed creativity, and hopefully allow some more points to be scored.
While it may take some building years again, 2015 looks to be a season with far less cloudy days for Cronulla. They can only go up from here.