As the National Rugby League season draws closer, we look at how the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks will go in 2020.
After a disappointing 2019, Cronulla enter 2020 without their veteran forward Paul Gallen. It could be a tough year at Shark Park.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Connor Tracey (Rabbitohs), Jesse Ramien (Knights), Cameron King (Featherstone).
Sosaia Feki (Castleford), Jayden Brailey (Knights), Kyle Flanagan (Roosters), Paul Gallen (retired), Kurt Capewell (Panthers), Matt Prior (Leeds), Aaron Gray (released).
TOP 30 SQUAD: Blayke Brailey, Jason Bukuya, Josh Dugan, Andrew Fifita, Wade Graham, Shaun Johnson, Sione Katoa, Will Kennedy, Cameron King, Billy Magoulias, Kayleb Milne, Josh Morris, Matt Moylan, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Briton Nikora, Jesse Ramien, Toby Rudolf, Cruz Topai-Aveai, Chad Townsend, Connor Tracey, Brayden Trindall, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Jack Williams, Teig Wilton, Aaron Woods, Bronson Xerri.
SPOTS AVAILABLE: four.
DEVELOPMENT SQUAD: Josh Carr, Jackson Ferris, Kyle Patterson, Daniel Vasquez, Jack A. Williams.
Rabbitohs (A), Storm (H), Knights (H), Bulldogs (A), Roosters (H).
WHAT TO EXPECT
Cronulla’s mediocre 2019 was reflected by their 12-12 record and seventh-place finish. At the halfway mark, they were threatening the top four, but lost five straight from rounds 14 to 18, and had to rely on beating the Wests Tigers in the last round at Leichhardt to confirm a finals spot (after losing Gallen’s final Shark Park game in a Golden Point heartbreaker against Canberra the previous week). They lost the elimination final against Manly-Warringah at Brookvale to finish their season.
The Sharks enter 2020 with plenty of uncertainty: Gallen won’t be there for the first time since 2001; the injury-prone Josh Dugan appears out of favour; and the Sydney Roosters are looking to sign Josh Morris, joining his brother Brett in Bondi.
Bronson Xerri had a wonderful debut year in 2019. He lived up to the hype after the emotional video of his first grade selection went viral, scoring 13 tries in 22 games, including a hat-trick against local rivals St George-Illawarra in round 11. If the Sharks are to make the finals, Xerri needs a similar strike rate this season.
Shaun Johnson, last year’s high-profile signing from the Warriors, will need an improved 2020. While he played 18 games, he never really reached his best, with three tries, 45 goals and 16 try assists.
Jesse Ramien is probably the Sharks’ biggest signing, returning to Cronulla after a season at Newcastle. He scored 11 tries in 21 games for the Sharks in 2017 and 2018, so he feels comfortable at Shark Park, which should help.
The Sharks have a tough start to 2020, playing three of last year’s top four (South Sydney, Melbourne, and the Roosters) in the first five rounds, followed by a trip to Brisbane. From there they only play six more games against last year’s top eight (Manly twice, Parramatta, Canberra, Melbourne, the Roosters).
Top Tryscorer – Bronson Xerri.
Top Pointscorer – Shaun Johnson.
Club Player of the Year – Bronson Xerri.
WHERE WILL THE CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS FINISH?
Without Gallen, and possibly Josh Morris, this will be a interesting year at Shark Park. If they can navigate a tough start to the season, they should be around the top eight, and hopefully play finals.