Wade Graham believes the additions of Matt Moylan and Josh Dugan have mitigated Cronulla’s losses of key players James Maloney and Jack Bird.
Cronulla head into the 2018 season with a formidable side on paper, one that the club’s fans will expect to challenge for a second premiership in three seasons.
While they lost Maloney to Penrith and Bird to Brisbane the Sharks have recruited well, signing an incumbent Test centre in Dugan and a young player hungry to play his best football to return to the representative arena in Moylan.
Those signings, plus a number of the club’s outstanding youth prospects, has new Sharks co-captain Graham believing Cronulla’s squad is as strong as ever.
“It’s really good because we lost a couple of quality players as well. Duges is almost a straight swap for Birdy, probably you get a little bit more experience with Duges,” Graham said.
“And then Moyza and Jimmy is a really good swap too. Both dynamic players and Moyza is probably bit more ad lib, Jimmy a more dominant half. But both on their day can obviously be big factors in why their team can have success. So it’s very exciting.
“Obviously Duges has been a rep player since he was a teenager so he knows what it’s about. Matty is fitting in a lot of hard work there to work on the combinations.
“Ava [Seumanufagai] from the Tigers is another big body for us. We sort of lacked maybe one big boy losing [Chris Heighington] and [Sam Tagataese] as well. Ava fills that role for us.
“And then we’ve got a few 20s boys really stepping in kicking the door down to get a start. Everything’s going along nicely so we just need to get some good performances under our belt now.”
Expectations at Cronulla have certainly changed since Graham arrived at the club in 2011. Once the butt of jokes given their almost half century premiership drought, coach Shane Flanagan has now assembled one of the strongest squads in the competition over the last five years.
As well as being supremely talented, Cronulla’s players have also had a taste of success, and now have a burning desire for more.
“I want to win. I think that’s everyone’s goal,” Graham said.
“We had a taste of it in 2016 and it was the best feeling in the world. We’re all striving for that but obviously it’s the toughest competition in the world. There’s 15 other clubs there ripping in and wanting the same thing.
“Probably our focus is on the start and being in that top four at the end of the season to give yourself an opportunity to go deep.”