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Preview 07: Cronulla Sharks - Australian Rugby league News
globalrugbyleague - Fri, 02 Mar 2007 22:01:00 GMT
Dancing with premiership success. This is an art form which 11 current NRL clubs have already mastered throughout their history.Grab out the calculator, do the maths and believe it or not, the average number of premierships for a club now sits at 5.

They say you never forget winning your club’s first premiership. Unfortunately, Sharks fans don’t have that good a memory.

Unless of course you’re referring to the 2 titles they’ve won in Reserve Grade.

For the new coach on the block, this season represents not just an opportunity to win another title but also to end the never-ending pain of the Sutherland Shire.

41-years after entering the competition, the Sharks head into 2007 hoping that coach number 15, Ricky Stuart can hook the elusive first title that keeps slipping off the line.

The job will not be an easy one.

Many past coaches who found ways to win premierships elsewhere have tried valiantly to re-write this tragic League record yet ended up walking away shaking their heads.

Names like John Lang (1994-2001), Jack Gibson (1985-87) and Chris Anderson (2002-2003). At Shark Park, past records hold little sway on game day.

Not that fans should totally dismiss Ricky Stuart’s record. Three consecutive Grand Final appearances (2002-2004) with the Roosters and 1 premiership (2002) cannot be dismissed.

It indicates that as a coaching tactician, Stuart in the past has applied invaluable tactics, reads the opposition well and is an effective mentor whom players respond to in big games.

Stuart also holds a winning percentage of around 60%, something his predecessor, Stuart Raper was unable to accomplish in three seasons.

While Raper unwisely persisted with the Kimmorley-Dykes halves combination during last year’s record losing streak (10), Stuart won’t tolerate such performances.

Winning is in his blood. Failure isn’t an option. And that sort of intense style of approach will ensure that any early season self-doubts are offloaded.

Stuart Raper did a lot of work away from Shark Park during the week. Ricky Stuart I anticipate will be around a lot more to observe proceedings and communicate more at training.

There is more then a new coach at the helm. A new way of thinking is in place. No one’s position in the squad is safe.

And that means competition for spots in the starting line-up will be fierce, meaning there will be little room for having too many ‘bad’ days.

The odds are shortening on a Dykes-Kimmorley pairing in the halves to begin the season. However that may only be a trial relationship given their win-loss record together in the past.

Either injury will hit Kimmorley or Dykes or one of them will be dropped in favour of the very talented, Brett Kearney or former Broncos star, Brett Seymour.

Having a number of options in the halves is a luxury Cronulla haven’t had for a while and that should keep opposition teams on standby for a shark alarm while giving coach Stuart a selection headache.

Will he really stick with the Kimmorley-Dykes combo for their round 1 clash against the Panthers or is a Kearney-Seymour tag-team on the horizon?

When it comes to the two most important spots in this team, we all know who the Sharks fans would and wouldn’t choose if they were running the show.

Goal kicking cost the Sharks some close games against big teams last year too, so the addition of Josh Hannay will give Ricky Stuart more options.

After their mysterious 10-game losing streak towards the back end of last season, the defence needed some extra beef and the Sharks get good marks in that area also.

They’ve replenished their forwards with honest, hardworking and reliable toilers like Craig Stapleton, put their veteran halves on notice and added a little attacking spice to their backline through the likes of Paul Stephenson, Dustin Cooper and Fraser Anderson.

Only 6 of the Sharks top 25 players in this year’s season guide have played less then 20 first grade games, so there is enough experience in the side to launch a reasonable campaign.

Darren Albert’s decision to return to England with a year left on his contract wasn’t the greatest help to the club.

As the highest tryscorer for the Sharks in 2006, his speed and support play as a ball runner will be missed.

Luke Covell, David Simmons and Brett Kearney should be able to remain individually impressive to cover for the loss of Albert.

Once again the Sharks loom on the new horizon as unknowns. While they will have to work hard to regain the trust and respect of some of their fans, a lack of expectation does reduce pressure on a team.

That might work in the Sharks favour in 2007.

Sharks coach: Ricky Stuart
Club CEO: Greg Pierce

Predicted Finish: 8th

Gains: Ricky Stuart (Roosters), Brett Seymour (Brisbane), Paul Stephenson (Manly), Craig Stapleton (Penrith), Lee Hookey (Penrith), Josh Hannay (North QLD), Misi Taulapapa (Central Comets), Michael Greenfield (Souths), Fraser Anderson (Brisbane), Dustin Cooper (Newcastle), Issac De Gois (Wests Tigers)

Losses: Phil Bailey (Wigan), Hutch Maiava (Hull), Nigel Vagana (Souths), Beau Scott (St George), Leon Bott (Canterbury), Tony Caine (St George), Luke Harlen (Wests Tigers), Matt Hilder (Gold Coast), James Stosic (Gold Coast), Brett Kelly (Canberra), Russell Aitken (Melbourne), Darren Mapp (released) & Toshio Laiseni (Cowboys)

SHARKS SQUAD 2007: Fraser Anderson, Greg Bird, Mitch Brown, Cameron Ciraldo, Dustin Cooper, Luke Covell, Issac De Gois, Luke Douglas, Adam Dykes, Paul Gallen, Michael Greenfield, Josh Hannay, Brett Kearney, Brett Kimmorley, Kevin Kingston, Phillip Leuluai, Ben Pomeroy, Ben Ross, Brett Seymour, David Simmons, Craig Stapleton, Paul Stephenson, Lance Thompson and Reece Williams. - Read More, Here