With just over a week to go until the NRL kicks off, we lay down an extended preview for each club. Below is a look at the incredibly hard to predict Sharks.
The Sharks were bounced by old rivals the Sea Eagles on a horror Saturday night in the first week of the finals.
Truthfully the club probably reached it’s aim, finals footy, and not a whole lot more. It took a last round win over the Tigers to secure a second weekend of September venture.
Too many injuries and inconsistencies meant 2019 was never going to be more than a placeholder season, although the emergence of many young stars puts the club in a much stronger position moving forward.
The likes of Mulitalo, Kennedy, Williams, Magoulias, Hamlin-Uele and Nikora all made names for themselves, while the Sharks feeder club, the Jets, looks as though it has hand delivered a beauty in Toby Rudolf.
Predicted Best Player: Wade Graham
If you were asking who the Sharks most important players are, Johnson, Moylan and Dugan are three of your top four, however I’m going with the ultra consistent and super talent skipper here.
Graham’s return to the Sharks in 2019 completely re-shaped the side. His combination with Bronson Xerri left the Eels and Bunnies stars, among others, clutching at thin air.
The retiring Paul Gallen all but hand picked Graham to take over the skipper’s arm band, but Wade no longer has his co-captain to guide him. I expect Graham to take this extra responsibility on become a top leader within the game.
Graham’s kicking game and ball playing skills make him a third “halves option” of sorts. He’s a weapon that nearly every other side lacks.
Predicted Top Scorer: Bronson Xerri
The majority of the club top try scorers will come from the wing stocks, however it is the young speedster centre that will light up the try scoring tally for the Sharks.
Xerri electrified in 2019 however handling errors and bad reads probably cost him three to five tries. After a full off-season in the top squad, expect those errors to go by the wayside and the try floodgates to open.
Xerri is more than likely going to continue in his favoured left centre position meaning he’ll play outside the best ball playing second rower in the game right now in Wade Graham.
He’s had a disrupted pre-season post surgery and will be in the papers almost weekly with links to the Roosters, however a fully fit and focused Xerri could score 15+ tries this year.
All the media talk surrounding Sharks recruitment has been re the “outs” in Gallen, Feki, Brailey and co, but the Sharks have low key recruited very well.
Jesse Ramien left the Sharks an Origin-ready centre yet struggled in the Hunter. Since returning to the Sharks he already looks in better shape and most importantly looks far happier.
Connor Tracey could be the under the radar pick up of the year. He stared for the Sharks against a middle strength Manly side, outplaying Townsend and Trindall.
With young Brailey still largely untested and with Cam King suffering an season-ending injury, Tracey looks just about as perfect a number 14 as you could ask for.
2020 Final Position: 7th
This Sharks side is jam packed full of talent. That cannot be argued. The key here is whether or not the Sharks can keep their stars on the field so that they can deliver the consistency required.
Johnson, Moylan and Dugan, when fully fit, walk into almost any side across the competition, but are all fighting to be ready for round one, with Dugan unlikely to feature for up to a month.
IF, and it’s a big if, the Sharks can put their best 17 out for any length of time, they’re almost a certainty to play finals footy.
That said, if they can’t, a Townsend led halves combo lacks the creativity to go far.
Josh Morris’s future still remains up in the air despite numerous statements to the contrary.
Youngsters like Connor Tracey and Toby Rudolf stared in the Manly trial and surely locked in bench spots come round one. Hamlin-Uele and Williams, if they can continue their rise, can become staples in this side for many, many years to come.
Way too many questions to predict anything other than a lower finals finish, however realistically this side can finish anywhere from 5th to 13th.