No one could have predicted the start to the season for the Cronulla Sharks. Here is our mid-season report card for the 10th placed Sharks.
Two wins against rivals St George Illawarra and big victories against the Cowboys and Titans.
The very good
The signing of Melbourne Storm fullback Nicho Hynes for three years starting in 2022.
Five losses in six games after their second win including a 48-0 loss to Penrith.
Coach John Morris, who made the finals in the past two season, was sacked in April after the club opted for Craig Fitzgibbon for season 2022.
The caretaker coach
Josh Hannay notched his first two wins at the helm before their round 13 bye. Their performance against a full-strength Titans outfit was impressive.
The big call
Premiership-winning halfback Chad Townsend was dropped in favour of off-contract pair Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan.
Will Kennedy was the man most likely to make way when Johnson returned from injury. But after a blistering start to the season, the No.1 has been re-signed and will link up with Hynes in the No.6 next year.
Premiership-winning centre Will Chambers, who was once the villain in a fierce rivalry with the Sharks, joined the club in April.
Josh Dugan, Aaron Wood and Shaun Johnson will not be at the Sharks in 2022 freeing up salary cap space to sign players for next season.
The unsung hero
The re-signed Connor Tracey has proven his utility value with an impressive run as a winger with Sione Katoa and Ronaldo Mulitalo part of a lengthy injured list. The good news is the Sharks should be back to near full strength by round 15.
The Sharks have had two weeks to prepare for the clash with the Panthers on Friday (7.55pm) at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium. The Panthers have put on 142 points against them in their past three games.
The Sharks have games against teams seven to 16 following this week's game with the Panthers and they only play one of the 'big four' in Melbourne (round 25) for the rest of the season.
D. The Sharks have had a tough start - on and off the field - in 2021. However, if they can keep their top squad on the park and their new halves combination can play off the back of momentum created by Toby Rudolf and Jesse Ramien they are a better than even chance to play finals.