SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Matthew Moylan of the Sharks runs the ball during the NRL Semi Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Penrith Panthers at Allianz Stadium on September 14, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A new look Sharks outfit will take the park under a new coach in 2019.

Will the off-field attention drive them on, or sink them under the pressure?

2019 Gains

Shaun Johnson (New Zealand Warriors, 2021), Josh Morris (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2020), Braydon Trindall (2020), Aaron Woods (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2021)

2019 Losses

Kurt Dillon (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Trent Hodkinson (Manly Sea Eagles), Edrick Lee (Newcastle Knights), Ricky Leutele (Toronto Wolfpack), Luke Lewis (retired), Joseph Paulo (St Helens RLFC), Jesse Ramien (Newcastle Knights), James Roumanos (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

2018 Recap

The Sharks fell one game short of the decider, going down in big fashion against a red hot Storm outfit. To say that they over achieved is no overstatement.

Matt Moylan took some time adopting into his new role but in the end, performed well above expectation. Josh Dugan did not prove return on investment, however, played well when fit.

Valentine Holmes became an absolute megastar of the game with 20 tries across the season. Jesse Ramien emerged as a future rep possibility. Luke Lewis was sent out on a high, scoring in two straight games before the Sharks were eliminated.

Best Recruit: Shaun Johnson

The Johnson signing is MASSIVE for the club. Johnson’s unveiling completely turned the fortunes of the club around during a horror time of negativity.

Not only is he a megastar on the field but he’s one of the game’s most marketable off-field. His name will be the major selling point or the club as it searches for sponsors.

On his day Johnson is the game’s most damaging number seven. Unfortunately, he has not found the consistency a player of his profile should show. A change of scenery and coaching style could provide what he needs.

Playing behind one of the game’s best forward packs and with names like Dugan, Morris and Moylan providing weaponry outside him, look for Johnson to have a monster season.

Future Star/One To Watch: Bronson Xerri

The hype on the 18-year-old junior rep centre is real. Shane Flanagan was not shy in stating that if the rules had allowed that he would have debuted in 2018.

One of the Sharks Premiership winning Jersey Flegg’s stars, Xerri may debut as soon as round one on the wing. His debut game for the Sharks feeder club, the Jets, saw him score a hattrick in the first half.

An absolute monster for his age, Xerri has the speed and footwork to make him a red hot chance of an early round debut. He’ll likely start his NRL first grade career on the wing with a shift to the centres the eventual shift.

Star Player: Matt Moylan

The Sharks main attacking weapon will likely shift to fullback allowing Johnson and Townsend/Flanagan to form the halves combination.

Given his performances in the six toward the end of the season, a shift to fullback may not be his preferred move, but it will make the Sharks a more dangerous side.

The 2016 Sharks side relied heavily on Ben Barba’s ball playing abilities to create try-scoring opportunities. For all his skills, Valentine Holmes lacked the passing game of Barba. Moylan possesses arguably a superior passing game to both.

He won’t have to kick either, while his defensive workload will be way down. This should allow Moylan to work off the back of Johnson and Townsend as a third half. This, in theory, should provide an extra route to the try line for the shire club.

Recruitment Grade: B

The Sharks have lost premiership winners in Luke Lewis, Ricky Leutele and of course the big one in Valentine Holmes. In recruiting Shaun Johnson they really softened the blow of the loss of Holmes, while I would argue that they’ve improved their title chances.

Josh Morris is a huge in and adds an experienced head to the backline. He will work with the club’s young gun Bronson Xerri while playing inside either Feki or Katoa (or even Xerri).

Losing Ramien and Lee will hurt, while the Segeyaro non re-signing will raise some eyebrows. That said, given the talent coming through the junior ranks, the Sharks should be fine.

Replacing Luke Lewis will be near impossible. Otherwise, the Sharks have done very well with recruitment.

Prediction: 6th

The Sharks have a roster capable of challenging for the title. That is hard to argue against. Given the off-field troubles and the fact they’ll start the season with a rookie coach, and sans their best attacking back rower in Wade Graham, the Sharks could produce anything.

If Johnson fires and Moylan slots back into fullback with style, the Sharks could start the season on fire and play from in front. Or Johnson may struggle to change his style of play while Moylan struggles to go back into the one.

A very capable Sharks forward pack could absolutely boss opponents, or their new look back row of Capewell and Sorenson could get overpowered.

There are just too many questions to put the Sharks in the top four, however on paper, with the additions of Johnson and Morris, look set for a comfortable top-eight finish.

It all comes down to the performances of Johnson and Moylan, and the ability of Capewell and Sorenson to become full time starting second rowers.

The talent is there but there are plenty of distractions. I’m confident in saying the Sharks will play finals footy, but it will be in a sudden-death environment.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I think that there is too much backroom noise and confused leadership going on at the Sharks. That will have an impact at some point though one would hope that the SC drama would be out of the way before the season starts. Morris’s ability to really lead this group will be a key point in their success or otherwise. A few big losses early on could cause a lot of issues.

  2. With a better injury run this side is top 4 or close to it with confidence. Once Graham returns there’s solid depth in all positions with a good mix of youth and experience. With a more potent and settled attack it should be a very good season if they can put aside the distractions and background noise that’ll be around for the early part of the season. Flannagan, Xerri and Katoa are all guns that will get their chance to shine this season. John Morris should prove to be a bit more adventurous than Flanno was focusing more on attacking footy rather than the grind of the past. He’s worked closely with the young stars over the past few years, knows their capabilities and will be keen to let them loose. The key will again be winning at home and making Shark Park that fortress.

  3. +1. I like the look of this Xerri dude. He carved Manly up everytime he touched the ball, explosive runner & good pace. I would definitely have him in my run on side along with Katoa, even at the expense of dugan or feki.

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