Chloe Schibeci reviews the Cronulla Sharks’ 2021 season, falling just short of the finals despite off field-drama.
2021 Club Record
Competition Points: 22
2021 Player AchievementsEmbed from Getty Images
Most Tries: William Kennedy (14)
Most Points: Braydon Trindall (88)
The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks’ season was more turbulent than the club and their fans had been hoping for; endless injuries and the loss of their coach built up to a rather disappointing ninth place finish for the Shire-bred team.
In a similar vein to last season, the Sharks were unable to get through without major injuries to key players at varying points in the season.
The coaching debacle was also a key factor. Head coach John Morris – who has been involved with the club behind the scenes since retiring as a player in 2014 – was told he was no longer needed at the club after just five rounds of competition, when the Sharks were two wins from five games.
It was announced on April 13 that Morris would be leaving the club effective immediately – Josh Hannay stepped in to see out 2021, while Craig Fitzgibbon was signed on from 2022 onwards. It was a disappointing end for Morris: fans and players alike were left gobsmacked by the decision – a loyal member of the club turned away for not showing results. Since the news broke, Morris has found a new home with the South Sydney Rabbitohs as an assistant coach.
An excessive amount of concussions forced Wade Graham to be sidelined for the latter part of the 2021 season; it is unclear how he will progress and continue into the 2022 season. It is being suggested, should he continue to play, to strip his captaincy at the Sharks. Not to say he is incapable of leading the team, but rather that he appears to contribute more successfully to the club when he is able to focus purely on the task at hand, rather than lifting and leading the team. Not to mention his playing time may be severely decreased as a result of these concussions.
A Shaun Johnson injury late in the season was also costly for Cronulla. He made only 10 appearances for the Sharks this season, before a season-ending hamstring injury. This injury signalled the end of his time at the Sharks, after it had been announced earlier on in the year that he had signed a two-year deal with the New Zealand Warriors from 2022.
It is important to give credit where it is due: William Kennedy did not miss for the Sharks this season, looking very comfortable in the fullback jersey. He scored the most tries all year, highlighting himself as the best player for the Sharks in 2021. The off-season will be a great chance for the 24-year-old to improve even more, ready to tear up next season.
While a few key elements to success were out of Cronulla’s control, it was ultimately the fault of the team for just missing out on the top eight. They left it until the final round to sneak in, but fell short on account of their for-and-against.
If the Sharks are to aspire to a better 2022 season, it is important for them to start the year strong and to work on full 80-minute performances. The shift in coaching staff will likely be a positive – especially considering Fitzgibbon will have the full off-season with the team, rather than jumping in mid-season as Hannay was required to do.
The current roster is solid but ageing. Perhaps bringing some of their younger players up through the ranks could make for a more successful 2022 season for the Sharks?
Lots of changes are coming for the Cronulla Sharks in 2022. Hopefully for the club and the fans, these changes lead to a solid season.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season – William KennedyEmbed from Getty Images
Try Assists: 16
Run Metres: 3,055
Tackle Bursts: 69