Given they reached the second week of finals during Craig Fitzgibbon's rookie season as coach, it's fair to say that something potentially special is building for the Cronulla Sharks.

Despite the straight-set exit in the aforementioned finals, Fitzgibbon oversaw a rise at his new club that saw them finish second. For reference, they missed the finals altogether in 2021.

Obviously, the addition of future Dally M medal winner Nicho Hynes helped them to success but ultimately this Sharks outfit is built on a foundation of players who have been at the club for many seasons.

Across the back three, William Kennedy has developed through the local Sharks lower grades, Sione Katoa played for the Sharks then Holden Cup side and Ronaldo Mulitalo the Sharks under 18s and up.

Jesse Ramien has represented the Sharks in six of his seven NRL seasons. Siosifa Talakai has been in the Shark system via the Jets even prior to his 2020 club debut.

Back-rowers Briton Nikora and Teig Wilton have never known anything other than the Sharks while Wade Graham is part of the foundations at the club.

Throw in local junior and seeming Shark lifer Blayke Brailey and you have a strong, and overwhelmingly young core of players that have made up this club for years.

Sharks juniors Kade Dykes, Kayal Iro, Braydon Trindall, Samuel Stonestreet, Jesse Colquhoun and Jack Williams have also recently penned extensions with the club. This seems to prove the theory that Craig Fitzgibbon is very happy with what he has.

Only Oregon Kaufusi was signed last season to be added to this squad. Daniel Atkinson and Niwhai Puru were the other youngsters added with a look to the future.

It seems as though the route to future success in the Shire is keeping this playing group together.

Entering the 2023 season with the unenviable task of re-signing their entire back five, the Sharks have since officially announced the re-signings of Talakai, Ramien and Mulitalo with deals reportedly close for both Katoa and Kennedy.

NRL Rd 5 - Sharks v Wests Tigers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 10: Ronaldo Mulitalo of the Sharks celebrates with his team mates after scoring a try during the round five NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Wests Tigers at PointsBet Stadium, on April 10, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Although both signings seem like logical moves, in my view the big re-signing remains unresolved. That of 23 year-old Teig Wilton.

I'd go so far as to say that extending the deal of Wilton is the Sharks' number-one priority right now. Even above the previously referenced talks with Kennedy and Katoa.

Certainly before looking outside the current squad.

I'm willing to even state, on record, that I would pause talks with Kennedy and Katoa until Wilton's future is resolved.

Kade Dykes seems like the natural, and very capable, heir to Kennedy's throne at fullback.

Young Sam Stonestreet is a hulking 20 year-old winger who lit up the Flegg competition last year. Having just been added to the Sharks 30-man squad it is a matter of when he makes his debut.

Whereas Dykes (for Kennedy) and Stonestreet (for Katoa) are very obvious replacements for off-contract talent, there is no one else like Wilton in the Sharks system... Or anywhere.

Sharks fans have heard Wilton's name for many years. He was a star in the Sharks 2018 Flegg winning side. He captained the side and was near unstoppable.

He played a brilliant supporting role Newtown the next year as they captured both the NSW Cup tile and the interstate tile, both in brilliant fashion.

As Wilton grew into his frame he was shifted into the middle, at times, for the Jets. The thinking looked to be that it would force the youngster to embrace the collision.

Although he more than held his own, his future was always in the back row.

After biding his time in 2020 and for parts of 2021, he was elevated to a starting position due to the absence of club captain and premiership winner Wade Graham.

I'm more than happy to suggest that Wilton outplayed his senior counterpart during the 2022 season where he formed a lethal left-edge combination with Matt Moylan and Talakai.

Wilton did as he was asked during 2022 behind Graham, who had earned the right to return to the run on side but 2023 has seen him become the club's first choice.

He was best on ground in the trial game against the Bulldogs and although his side was torn to pieces by the Bunnies, he scored a try and looked very dangerous in attack.

It is obvious that Fitzgibbon sees Wilton as the future of that ledge edge. Graham has admitted his future is from the bench, while Sifa Talakai has remained in the centres when he very easily could have shifted slightly in.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 28: Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon watches his players warm up during the round eight NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla Sharks at Suncorp Stadium, on April 28, 2022, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Losing Wilton, who has reportedly attracted interest from big hitters such as the Panthers and Bunnies, would be a huge blow to a side looking to win a second premiership.

Although Wilton has stated his desire to remain in the black, white and blue, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't at least have his head turned by the powerhouse clubs.

His uncle John Morris now has a big say at the Bunnies so to think he wouldn't be talking to the future Origin rep is unimaginable.

Unless Joseph Manu was to publicly issue a "come and get me" order to the club, the Sharks should be focused purely on Wilton's signature.

I'm sure both Kennedy and Katoa would be more than happy to wait and if not, the club would be best serves insisting that they do.

If it came down to losing either, or even both, as a Sharks fan I'd cop that if Wilton's re-signing announcement hit the official website.

Screen-cap this next sentence as I'm more than happy to put it out there - losing Teig Wilton would be a horror blow. He's going to be special!

Sharks officials, stop what you're doing, sit Teig and his management down in a room and do whatever you need to do.

Wilton is a key to the Sharks 2023 hopes and even moreso an absolute linchpin to any future success in the Shire.


  1. The longer this goes on, the greater the probability that Teig Wilton will sign for Souths. So, yes – Sharks need to make no offer to Kennedy and Katoa, and offer Wilton a motza – too big to turn down.

    Be like the Roosters – pay top dollar for the guys you really want and fill in the holes with cheap youngsters.

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