SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 05: Luke Lewis, Jack Bird and Gerard Beale of the Sharks celebrate after Beale scored a try during the round five NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the Cronulla Sharks at Allianz Stadium on April 5, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Following the horror 2014 suffered by the club, 2015 could have gone either way. Either the club could have folded and crumbled, or they could have fought back.

At 0 and 4, things looked grim in the Shire, but the injection of Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird provided life in the Shark outfit.

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Over the season they beat the Cowboys twice, including ending their amazing winning streak, the Roosters twice, the Bunnies in their only meeting, and even beat the Dogs at Belmore.

If not for an inspired Manly performance on the final day, the Sharks would have finished in the top four. That is a huge turnaround considering the past few seasons endured by the club and their fans.

Season Highlight: 28-12 win over South Sydney (Quarter Finals)

The Sharks season would have been deemed a relative success even if they had lost to Souths, but instead they absolutely turned it on against the exhausted defending premiers.

The game as a contest was over at halftime, and only a few late tries helped make the score-line respectable for Souths, such was the performance of the Sharks.

Long suffering Sharks fans endured a horror 2014, but this quarter-final win was the reward for enduring said pain.

There were better wins during the season for the Sharks, but this was the occasion to prove they belonged in the finals, and they proved it in great fashion.

Season Lowlight: 39 nil loss to the Cowboys (Semi Finals)

Unfortunately the final image for Sharks fans in 2015 is the belting they were handed by eventual premiers the Cowboys.

From the opening minute, the Sharks were never in the race.

Johnathan Thurston had the ball on a string, and was almost taking the mickey in the final moments, with a ridiculous through the legs try assist.

The Sharks timing could not have been worse as they turned in their worst performance in their most important game, but everything that happened prior to this game should not be forgotten.

Star Player: Michael Ennis

Despite being pipped by the equally brilliant Wade Graham for the club’s player of the season, Michael Ennis was nothing short of amazing.

Ennis provided leadership, a third kicking option, and a mountain of try assists, in his first season in the black, white and blue.

The club lost young gun Michael Lichaa to the Dogs, but I’d argue Ennis has, and will continue to provide more in the short term, until Nu Brown is ready to take over the role.

Three tries, an amazing 17 try assists, and over 35 tackles per game, sum up Ennis’s season. He was absolutely vital to the Sharks this season.

Most Disappointing Player: Ben Barba

Barba was brought to the Sharks to provide the spark they lacked since moving Todd Carney on from the club. Unfortunately he was unable to provide that.

His opening few rounds in the halves simply did not work, and he only started to look something like the player he once was when he slotted back into fullback.

Reduced to an impact role off the bench, Barba did not justify his lefty price tag, although reports indicate the Sharks did not contribute a large percentage this season.

They will do so in the future, and will therefore be more critical of the enigmatic utility. At his best Barba can drive the Sharks to a title, but he was a shell of his best this season.

Future Star: Jack Bird

The wraps on young Jack Bird were high but no one could have predicted the season the talented centre turn five-eighth would have.

Bird’s efforts in the halves landed him the rookie of the year award, although he is likely to shift to centre next season, despite suggestions he may play fullback.

His starting debut was the stuff of legend, as a brilliant solo try saw the Sharks pull off one of the upsets of the season over the Roosters.

There wasn’t much else he could have done in his first season in the top grade, and it’s scary to imagine how destructive he may be running outside James Maloney, and inside Valentine Holmes.

Best Signing For 2016: James Maloney

The Sharks were crying out for a superstar half, and in the former Origin and Rooster premiership winner they have signed just that.

They may have missed out on Cherry Evans, however I’d argue in Townsend they have signed a better-for-value half, who better fits their system.

Maloney’s kicking game will add a dimension to the Shark attack they have not had since the early days of Todd Carney’s days at the club.

His partnership with either Townsend, Bird or Cleeland will be absolutely key going forward.

Outlook:

The Sharks have signed exceptionally well for the 2016 season, adding a brand new halves pairing, as well as young, and talented backup players in problem positions.

There is no doubt they will be stronger as a squad heading into next season, however Maloney and Townsend/Cleeland will need time to adapt to their new side.

Ben Barba needs to be there somewhere, whether it is at fullback or as an impact player off the bench, and he needs to fire to allow the Sharks their best bet at winning their maiden premiership.

With Holmes, Bird, Maloney, Ennis, Graham, Fifita, Gallen, Lewis and a quality supporting cast, nothing less than a top four finish should be acceptable in 2016.

Season Grading: B+

It is a shame that their season ended in such horrible fashion, as the team’s efforts deserved more. The matter of their semi-final thrashing stopped them from attaining an A.

Given their horror 2014, where literally everything that could go wrong, did, 2015 was a major success.

Bird and Holmes are better for a full season in first grade, while Ennis was certainly a top three best signing of any side in the NRL.

They were never really in the hunt to end their premiership drought, however it was a near perfect set up for 2016 and beyond.

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