2018 Review: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

NRL TP M LOGO 01 STA PITCH POS
Embed from Getty Images

Our analysis of each clubs NRL season reaches the final four - Cronulla were eliminated in the preliminary finals but showed plenty promise after their failure to defend the title in 2017. Andrew Ferguson reviews the boys in the black, white and blue.

After a successful 2017 campaign where they followed up their breakthrough Premiership success in 2016 with a fifth place before losing to the eighth-placed Cowboys in the first week of the finals, Cronulla hit 2018 with improvement in mind.

They bought in some top line talent in the backs and after a slow start, had a very good mid-season and end-of-season campaign to finish in 4th place, on equal competition points with minor premiers the Roosters, who they lost to in the first week of the finals.

While they overcame Penrith in the second week in Sydney, Cronulla were ultimately outclassed by the Storm in the penultimate finals match before the Grand Final.

Turning point

The Sharks started the year very poorly, winning just two of their opening six games. In that time they had used Valentine Holmes, Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan at fullback. However in Round 9, Holmes was given 3 straight games to claim the spot and he showed he was capable. After the Origin series, where he starred in a losing side, he returned to the Sharks at fullback in Round 14 and stayed there, enjoying some amazing form in the process. Cronulla went on to win  eight of their last eleven games, with Holmes scoring ten tries in that time.

What worked

Holmes at #1 - Shane Flanagan and his coaching staff weren't sure at first, but tentatively gave it a go before Origin and after they went all-in, quickly learned it was indeed the way forward. Holmes had a tremendous season.

What didn't work

Player durability. 2018 saw the Sharks use 28 players, the most in a season for the club since their tumultuous 2014 campaign. Throughout the year they had to go without Paul Gallen, Jesse Ramien, Wade Graham, Luke Lewis, Sosaia Feki and Josh Dugan, which all proved too much when most of them were unavailable in their last match in week three of the finals.

Best player

After a frustrating start to the year where he was being rotated between wing and fullback, the club finally backed Valentine Holmes and he absolutely flourished.

Disappointing player

Ava Seumanufagai came to the Sharks after a long time at the Tigers and was expected to take his game to the next level. Instead he found himself in lower grades and eventually replaced as the bench front rower by former team mate and mid-season signing Aaron Woods.

Rookies

Kyle Flanagan made his NRL debut in Round 24 against the Knights and impressed at five-eighth. He looked every bit ready for the step up and if the Sharks lose Valentine Holmes to the Cowboys as has been rumoured, Moylan could well move to fullback to accommodate Flanagan in the halves.

Feeder club round-up

Cronulla's feeder team in the NSWRL Intrust Super Premiership was the Newtown Jets, who finished the regular season in third place. They then advanced all the way to the Grand Final but went down 18-12 to the Bulldogs. Their Under 20's side also featured on Grand Final day at Leichhardt Oval in September, claiming the Jersey Flegg Cup with a 22-18 win over Penrith.

Looking ahead

The Sharks have lost two centres in Ricky Leutele and Jesse Ramien and have brought in veteran Josh Morris to partner Josh Dugan. 2019 is set to be Paul Gallen's final season and the club will be out to send him out on a high note.

Potential 2019 lineup

Based on current signings

1. Valentine Holmes
2. Sosaia Feki
3. Josh Morris
4. Josh Dugan
5. Sione Katoa
6. Matt Moylan 
7. Chad Townsend
8. Andrew Fifita
9. Jayden Brailey 
10. Matt Prior
11. Wade Graham
12. Scott Sorensen
13. Paul Gallen

14. Aaron Woods
15. Kurt Capewell
16. Jayson Bukuya
17. Ava Seumanufagai

2018 Results

1
North Queensland Cowboys 20
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 14
L
2
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 16
St George Illawarra Dragons 20
L
3
Parramatta Eels 4
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 14
W
4
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 14
Melbourne Storm 4
W
5
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 10
Sydney Roosters 28
L
6
St George Illawarra Dragons 40
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 20
L
7
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 26
Penrith Panthers 22
W
8
Gold Coast Titans 9
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 10
W
9
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 22
Parramatta Eels 20
W
10
Canberra Raiders 16
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 24
W
11
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 22
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16
W
12
Newcastle Knights 10
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 48
W
13
South Sydney Rabbitohs 22
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 14
L
14
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 24
Wests Tigers 16
W
15
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 16
Brisbane Broncos 20
L
16
Warriors 15
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 18
W
17
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 0
BYE
18
Penrith Panthers 12
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 24
W
19
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 28
Canberra Raiders 24
W
20
Brisbane Broncos 12
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 10
L
21
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 32
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 33
L
22
Melbourne Storm 14
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 17
W
23
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 28
North Queensland Cowboys 16
W
24
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 38
Newcastle Knights 12
W
25
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 18
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 30
W
Finals Week 1
Sydney Roosters 21
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 12
L
Finals Week 2
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 21
Penrith Panthers 20
W
Finals Week 3
Melbourne Storm 22
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 6
L

By the Stats

34
Competition Points
16
Matches Won
0
Matches Drawn
8
Matches Lost
519
Points Scored
423
Points Conceded