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  • 05:38:33 AEST
  • Friday, 21 September 2018
Sharks Paul Gallen 090318

Cronulla Sharks NRL 2018 season preview


The Sharks are circling

Key Ins: Josh Dugan (Dragons), Matt Moylan (Panthers), Trent Hodkinson (Knights), Aaron Gray (Rabbitohs)

Key Outs: Gerard Beale (Warriors), Jack Bird (Broncos), Fa’amanu Brown (Bulldogs), Chris Heighington (Knights), Jeremy Latimore (Dragons)

 

Overview

The Sharks were unable to back-up their maiden premiership heroics of 2016 last season as they finished the year one spot outside of the top four, only to bow out of the finals in straight sets by the Grand Final bound Cowboys. Poor ball retention and ill-discipline was the ultimate downfall for the Cronulla side, as they made 266 errors and conceded 175 penalties in the regular season. 

The club will be eager to send out veteran captain Paul Gallen a winner this season and have replaced the talented James Maloney and Jack Bird with Matt Moylan and Josh Dugan. On paper this looks a fair swap, but when you consider the rumours of trouble between Moylan and the authoritative coaching style of Anthony Griffin last season, as well as Dugan’s tendency to find off-field drama for fun, these signings could be a recipe for disaster. 

Coach Shane Flannagan will have his work cut out for him but will rely on the old heads of Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis to keep these boys in-line.

Flannagan will also have to improve the Sharks’ attack in 2018 after averaging only 19.6 points per game last year. He will have a plethora of attacking options at his disposal and a versatile roster which will allow him to cover injuries in key positions. Selection dilemmas await for the coach, given Dugan, Moylan and Valentine Holmes can all play fullback, whilst the likes of Chad Townsend, Kyle Flannigan and Trent Hodkinson are all capable in the halves. The key to bringing success to the shire this season will rely on Flanagan’s ability to place the pieces of his backline puzzle in their optimal places.

In what is a horror draw to start the season, the Sharks will face the Cowboys, Eels, Storm and then the Roosters all before round five. If they find a winning combination early, then watch out!

 

Player to watch: Coming off the back off some impressive efforts for the Kangaroos in the World Cup, it could be argued that Valentine Holmes’ best position is wing. Back in NRL land however, a player with this much talent should be given the opportunity to prove his worth in the number one jersey. Holmes needs to improve his support play if he wants to make the position his own, and with the talent he possess, is expected to do so. A big year from Holmes will pave the way for the Sharks to play September footy.

Key Player: Matt Moylan replaces fan favourite James Maloney in the number six jersey following an average year for the Panthers, and Sharks fans will be eager for quick results. Having only played 8 of 89 NRL games at five-eighth, there are plenty asking the question, does Moylan has what it takes to follow in the footsteps of Darren Lockyer and successfully transition from fullback into the halves? A fit and happy Matt Moylan is a world class player and he is ready to take his game to the next level.  Sharks fans should be confident in his ability to handle the pressure in the 2018 season.

 

Outside backs rating: 6/10

NSW and Australia representative Josh Dugan will bring a strong ball running game and gritty defence to the Sharks’ outside backs. Sione Katoa, who will play outside Dugan on the wing, was the leading try-scorer in U/20's last season and is capable of handling the step up to first-grade. Ricky Leutele has been with the Sharks since 2010 but has only played 103 first grade games. He can do a job for Flannigan but don’t expect miracles. His partner in crime is winger Sosaia Feki who is a solid performer, having scored 13 tries in 23 appearances last season, however both him and Leutele won’t be setting the competition on fire this year.   

Forward Pack rating: 9/10

The Sharks boast one of the most feared forward packs in the game. Andrew Fafita has dominated at the highest level, however he can be inconsistent and will need to be at the top of his game this season. He is complimented well by front-row partner Matt Pryor, who is on the opposite end of the spectrum providing a high level of consistency and stability. Wade Graham broke into the Origin arena last year and is a damaging backrower, whilst veterans Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis roll the sleeves up every week and churn through a high work rate.    

Spine rating: 6/10      

Valentine Holmes (Fullback), Matt Moylan (Five-Eighth), Chad Townsend (Halfback) and Jayden Brailey (Hooker) will get the nod for round one this season. Townsend is reliable but will face pressure to hold his spot from the bench, whilst Brailey will be determined to avoid second year syndrome after having a promising debut season last year. It’s difficult to get excited with this combination when you know that the Sharks have more than one back-up plan for their spine. James Segeyaro is pushing for a starting hooker spot, Kyle Flannigan and Trent Hodgkinson will be eyeing off the number seven jersey, whilst Dugan’s home is at fullback. It’s not a bad problem to have and it’s likely to play out one of two ways; either the Sharks get off to a decent start and stick to their initial plan, or they fall out of the blocks and Flanagan makes wholesale changes.

 

               

Bookies' Verdict

Our Verdict

Top 8

$1.60

Wait until round 6- it's more than likely you'll get a better price given their draw.

Premiership

$13

$20

2018 Prediction

6th

7th

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