BY ANY stretch, you’d have to consider the recruitment by Darren Mooney — the silent ‘‘partner’’ of Cronulla Sharks head coach Shane Flanagan — as one of the best in the NRL this season.
Now, the trick is to add to a formula which has the Sharks running equal second: to transform a good Sharks side into a real powerhouse of the National Rugby League.
When former chief executive Richard Fisk followed disgruntled coach Ricky Stuart out the door in 2010, the financially struggling club chose not to replace Fisk directly. Instead, it was Mooney — a former Wests Tigers welfare and Toyota Cup manager — who was suddenly thrust alongside Flanagan as the Sharks’ football club manager.
For 2011 the Sharks secured Kiwi international Jeremy Smith from the Dragons, promising Penrith utility Wade Graham, former Shark centre Colin Best from Souths and winger John Williams (Cowboys).
A poor start to 2011, with Cronulla losing nine of their first 13 games, convinced Mooney and Flanagan they needed more quality players for 2012, with experienced Peter Sharp also joining as assistant coach.
Utility Jeff Robson (Parramatta), props Ben Ross (Souths), Bryce Gibbs and Andrew Fifita (from Wests Tigers), were followed to Woolooware headquarters by former Shark hooker Isaac De Gois, forwards Mark Taufua (Knights) and Jon Green (Dragons) — and then game-breaker, former Test half
Carney, along with captain Paul Gallen, has had a terrific influence on the Sharks’ winning ways this season.
And despite an initial lukewarm reception from league critics, the rest of the Sharks new boys have shown the way.
Mooney is unquestionably a most reticent public speaker, preferring his coach to take up the heat of media scrutiny. But on this day, a week when the Sharks enjoyed a bye, Mooney said the club wants to build on its success.
‘‘We only want players who really want be a part of this club,’’ said Mooney. ‘‘We only won seven games in both previous seasons [2010-11] so we’re pretty happy to have passed that for nine wins, just past the
There’s a popular theory that successful NRL clubs need five or six players with representative experience to evolve into powerhouses of the game.
Melbourne Storm have their three Queensland Origin and Test stars in Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, with Test players Ryan Hoffman and Sika Manu, and others like Anthony Quinn and Dane Nielsen with recent Origin experience.
The Sharks, the first team to beat the Storm this season, have three — Gallen, Carney and Smith — with ‘‘vacancies’’ in the outside backs.
For 2013, Penrith recruit Michael Gordon (2010 Origin player) will give the Sharks four — and there are some who see ‘‘rep player’’ in Wade Graham — with the Sharks still on the lookout to bolster their ‘‘elite’’ ranks.
But Mooney, with five players off contract, cautions it might not happen overnight.
‘‘We don’t want to just go out and pay ‘overs’ for someone to get him here,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re building a culture, and this is a really good place to come to, so we’re interested in those players wanting to become a Shark.’’