New dawn arrives for Cronulla Sharks in 2019

X-factor: Sharks prop Andrew Fifita was outstanding in Cronulla's trial victory over Newcastle at Maitland. Picture: Marina Neil
X-factor: Sharks prop Andrew Fifita was outstanding in Cronulla's trial victory over Newcastle at Maitland. Picture: Marina Neil

It's always darkest before dawn.

This old saying may as well be Cronulla's ray of sunshine ahead of the 2019 season.

The summer has cost them their premiership-winning coach in Shane Flanagan and their CEO Barry Russell. They will also have to play $350,000 under the salary cap for the next two seasons.

It's easy to forget the Sharks also lost their star player in Valentine Holmes, who was granted a release to pursue a career in the NFL at the end of last year.

They also have a rookie coach in John Morris now in charge but, regardless of what has gone on off the field, there is still an air of confidence about the Sharks.

For starters, is there a better forward pack in the competition? Any side that can afford to bring Aaron Woods off their bench has to be taken seriously.

Veteran Paul Gallen is still there. He was going as well as ever at the end of last season. He'll be 38-years-old in August. But it's just a number for the Sharks skipper as he prepares for his final campaign.

Andrew Fifita, arguably the best prop in the world on his day, and Matt Prior give the Sharks plenty of muscle up front.

The Sharks have lost some experience in the back row with Luke Lewis retiring and Wade Graham unavailable for the first half of the season through injury. But that has provided young gun Briton Nikora an opportunity, with Scott Sorensen and Kurt Capewell also in contention. Young hooker Jayden Brailey is also a star of the future.

Elsewhere, the question is - are the Sharks an even better balanced side with Matt Moylan moving to fullback and Shaun Johnson at five-eighth?

The signing of the New Zealand international was a statement of intent from Cronulla, with Johnson to partner Chad Townsend in the halves.

Josh Dugan and new signing Josh Morris speak for themselves in terms of quality, with the Sharks blessed with two genuinely world class centres. Young gun Sione Katoa and the reliable Sosaia Feki provide strike out wide.

Welcome aboard: Wade Graham and Shaun Johnson alongside Don Anderson, CEO of new Sharks major sponsor Ace Gutters Durakote. Picture: Cronulla Sharks

Welcome aboard: Wade Graham and Shaun Johnson alongside Don Anderson, CEO of new Sharks major sponsor Ace Gutters Durakote. Picture: Cronulla Sharks

Then there is Cronulla's next generation. 

Exciting young half Kyle Flanagan had a taste of NRL last season and is ready for first grade. And watch out for Bronson Xerri. Highly rated at the Sharks, the 18-year-old is a weapon in attack.

Many will rightly point out that the Sharks have endured one of the most difficult off-seasons imaginable. But it's not even the club's darkest time in the last decade. Such is their resilience, Cronulla bounced back from the ASADA scandal and won a premiership.

Who would bet against them doing something similar in 2019?

Comments