SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 03: Roosters captain Craig Fitzgibbon shows his emotion during the round 17 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Sydney Roosters at WIN Jubilee Stadium on July 3, 2009 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It's fair to say that 2021 has been a strange year for the Sharks. I'd say negative but I'm not sure that's entirely true.

We've run through the up and down 2021 in the Shire so I'll keep this brief. They moved their ultra-popular coach on for the most sought after young coach in the sport.

It split the fanbase right down the middle. It split the playing squad right down the middle.

It created a distraction that the club did not need. This, with all due respect, was not a side capable of much more than a seventh or eighth-placed finish.

They'll be flat chat making the finals in 2021.

Looking forward to 2022, however, they've added a coach who is so highly regarded that two of the competition's most chased off-contract players signed for the Sharks with both specifically mentioning Fitzgibbon was the deciding factor.

SUNSHINE COAST, AUSTRALIA - MAY 24: Dale Finucane in action during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at Sunshine Coast Stadium on May 24, 2021 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Just this past week the Sharks announced they are moving back to their spiritual home next season.

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Simply put, the lows of early 2021 have largely been forgotten for what should be some pretty bright skies in the future.

One issue though that the Sharks have struggled with this season, and something they need to attend to and fix right away is a severe lack of leadership.

Club captain Wade Graham has been reduced to just 11 appearances in 2021 due to concussion symptoms. In three of those matches, he was forced off early due to failing HIA's.

With all due respect to Josh Hannay, he does not strike me as a coach who carries the authority or experience required in the Shire.

He is a rookie coach forced into the position through a ridiculous situation the likes I honestly can't remember seeing at this level.

You take away your club captain, a player of the highest standing in the game, not to mention 259 games of NRL experience, add to it a rookie coach who is appointed very much as a stopgap, and you're suddenly on the back foot.

The Sharks also lack the authority in the board of some other clubs. There's no way some of the things that happen at the Sharks would fly at the Roosters. Nick Politis would never stand for any of that nonsense.

Nor would Craig Bellamy, a full time Paul Gallen or a fully fit Wade Graham.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 16: Wade Graham of the Sharks scores a try during the round 15 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Brisbane Broncos at Southern Cross Group Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Senior players such as Shaun Johnson and Aaron Woods were told their futures lay elsewhere. Andrew Fifita doesn't have the required leadership qualities. Nor does Josh Dugan.

The only other experienced player in the 17 man squad is Aiden Tolman. He is a great footballer but is far too quiet and to be honest, nice, to offer what is required.

Now the Sharks certainly haven't helped themselves either, curiously appointing Woods as captain in Graham's absence.

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In terms of a solution, dare I suggest, the Sharks have provided a variety of brilliant options. Luckily so.

Craig Fitzgibbon is yet to post a single NRL game as coach to his name. He's a rookie coach.

A rookie coach with 308 games of first grade under his belt. An 11-time Origin player. A guy capped 19 times by the Kangaroos.

A rookie coach with arguably the best coaching apprenticeship under his belt.

Fitzgibbon coached Country Origin, where he earned a reputation as the next breakout coaching star. Not to mention his role in the NSW camp under Brad Fittler.

Then there is the multiple years he has served as right-hand man to Trent Robinson as the best run and most successful club of the modern era, the Roosters.

Nicho Hynes, who was chased be a host of clubs, said he chose the Sharks because of what Fitzgibbon put forward.

Toby Rudolf and Will Kennedy went out of their way to praise the incoming coach and sighted him as the reason they had no hesitation in pledging their exciting futures to the Sharks.

I guarantee you that the entire atmosphere at Cronulla will shift, for the positive, the literal second Craig Fitzgibbon walks in the gates and picks up that clipboard.

Joining him in 2022 are the two players the Sharks need most. Dale Finucane and Cam McInnes.

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 28: Cameron McInnes of the Dragons looks on during the round 15 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the North Queensland Cowboys at WIN Stadium on June 28, 2019 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Are they the best players in the game? No. They are, however, the two players you would design from the ground up if you were suiting a need for the 2022 Sharkies.

Both are middle forwards who can defend, which the current Sharks crop hardly boast right now, but more importantly, they are leaders.

Cam McInnes is the club captain of the Sharks closest rivals the Dragons. He's a no-nonsense player with an almost unmatched reputation.

Great guy, smart guy, great footballer who will leave literally everything out there and would seemingly die for his club.

If he received a text or call invite to the infamous Paul Vaughan cook-out, there's no way in the world he says "oh, that sounds like a good idea."

Then there's Dale Finucane.

29 year's of age. 214 NRL games. Stack of Origins. Played the majority of his career under the best of the best coaches. Des Hasler at the Dogs, Craig Bellamy at the Storm.

Another co-captain of his club.

Another player who has literally bled for the cause.

A leader by example. On and off the field.

He may not have the tackle breaking abilities of David Fifita or the run metres of Payne Haas but in terms of experienced players you could set your alarm to, he is the man!

With Wade Graham hopefully returning to full fitness that provides the Sharks with three experienced forwards, all with captaincy experience.

Throw in a guy who just exudes respect, class and stature in Fitzgibbon, and I would be confident in predicting we don't see these ridiculous penalty counts, instragram stories or headless-chook-like performances that has plagued the Sharks 2021.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Sharks should look at adding Rhyse Martin, have leadership and experience on both edges/sides with him and Graham, both can ball play aswell as run hardlines. He’s in good form and is the current PNG Kumuls captain

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