2010 SEASON REVIEW: Cronulla Sharks

Wins: 7
Losses: 17
Position: 14th
Home Record: 4 Wins, 8 Losses (=14th – Last)
Away Record: 3 Wins, 9 Losses (=15th)
Best Winning Streak: 1 (Rounds 4, 7, 11, 13, 16, 23 and 25)
Longest Losing Streak: 6 (Rounds 17-22)
Players Used: 28
Player of the Year: Paul Gallen
Tries Scored (after 26 rounds): 62 (16th - Last)
Tries Conceded (after 26 rounds): 106 (15th)

Another year of struggles ensured Cronulla were the only club that failed to finish the season with the coach they started with.

Ricky Stuart eventually gave his spot at the club away after he, and others, found it too difficult to work with the new chairman.

By doing so he freed up the side to start fresh under long-time understudy Shane Flanagan and if some solid performances at season’s end are anything to go by, perhaps they can turn things around after all.

The Sharks lacked any sort of confidence early and the losses kept coming. Their attack continued to give them no joy and this year their defence followed suit; at times the word ‘amateur’ would have been doing park footballers an injustice.

Simple reads in defence seemed mission impossible, but thankfully, in the back end, it appeared more steel was coming… albeit in patches.

At the end of the day though, season 2010 was a dismal one, which yielded just seven wins and kept them rooted near the bottom of the ladder from March through September.

Where They Excelled … The Sharks didn’t have a good time of it statistically speaking, but if they excelled anywhere it was in offloads and second-phase play.

Sadly, they were unable to play constructive football of the back of the second most offloads in the NRL. Paul Gallen and Anthony Tupou were the main destroyers, busting out 67 and 43 offloads respectively.

Where They Struggled … The Sharks had by far the worst attack in the competition, scoring just 354 points at 14.75 per game. Their defence wasn’t much better across the whole year, ranked second last, although it did firm up in some games in the latter stages.

At the beginning of the year it seemed all a team had to do was spread the ball wide to score against the hapless Sharks; but there has been some minor signs of improvement. Teams scored at will on the Sharks’ right edge, proving Cronulla’s left-edge defence was communicating poorly (right-side attack plays against left-side defenders). It meant they conceded more tries in this corridor than any other side.

The team’s goal line defence was also poor, as 51 tries were put past them from 0-10 metres from the line – the second most in the NRL.

Despite having a big forward pack they struggled in metres gained, probably because of the high error count – and the fact they were one of the competition’s most penalised teams.

Missing In Action … It wasn’t as if injuries were solely to blame for the Sharks’ demise. They managed to get through the season using just 28 players, nothing too hard to handle.

Veteran winger Luke Covell played just 13 games after having revolutionary knee surgery and getting back in time to retire on his own terms, while niggling injuries hampered Josh Cordoba, Isaac Gordon and Ben Pomeroy at various stages.

Turning Point … The Sharks’ season was battling from the starter’s gun. They lost their opening three matches and by the time they had played seven games they had just two wins.

It was obviously uphill from here – but having just beaten Newcastle and with a little more confidence, the chance was there for the Shire boys to head to Wollongong and put up a fight against the competition front-running Dragons. But the result at the end of the night was 38-0 to the home side, wiping away any last ounce of true belief the Sharks’ players had of a surge up the ladder.

Ironically, a few rounds later, after another win, this time against the Roosters, the Sharks might have again started to think they weren’t out of the running. But again they hit the Dragons and a 22-4 loss cemented what everyone knew… this wasn’t their year.

Best Games … They got off the duck egg with an 11-0 shutout of Parramatta in Round 4 but the game didn’t reach many heights. They beat the Eels again later in the year – but their best efforts were two wins against the Roosters. The first was in Round 13 at the Sydney Football Stadium where they smashed the boys from Bondi 42-18. Nathan Gardner scored what some believe to be the try of the year as the Sharks ran riot.

In the re-match later in the season the Sharks beat a now in-form and second favourite for the crown Roosters 18-12, showing they could mix it with the best when they had their heads on right.

This was further proven in the final home game of the year when they sent Trent Barrett and Luke Covell into retirement in style, snapping a Gold Coast five-game winning run with an impressive 30-16 win.

Worst Games … Plenty can fit into this category. Manly crushed them twice during the year, once 40-12 and another time 48-18 – a fate worse than death to some diehard fans.

The 38-0 loss to the Dragons was inept and in terms of non-existent defence the 44-16 loss to the Broncos early in the year was a shocker. Brisbane didn’t even appear to have to try to score and it made you wonder if this Sharks outfit was the worst of all time.

After Flanagan came on board the side lifted a little but a 37-10 loss to the Warriors at home was another for the ‘never to watch again’ basket for the Sharkies’ faithful. A heavy loss to the Panthers in the last round rubbed salt into the wounds.

Hold Your Head High … Kade Snowden and Luke Douglas cemented themselves as genuine front- rowers, with Snowden getting a crack at Origin and Douglas being 18th man. The pair should help carry the Sharks to greater heights in the coming years.

Paul Gallen once again was a warrior – and thankfully grabbed a line-break late in the year, so as not to inherit Martin Lang’s record of most runs without one! He averaged 176 metres a game – phenomenal.

Nathan Gardner looks a genuine superstar at fullback and with more experience could prove invaluable over the next decade.

Toyota Cup … The Sharks’ under-20s were as successful as the first grade side … not very. Also anchored in 14th spot, the junior Sharks won just eight games and were four wins off the pace of the top eight.

The year started reasonably enough, with two wins and a draw from the first four games, but then a mid-year five-match losing streak hurt big time.

Just like the NRL side, the team struggled to score points and were ranked 15th in attack. Their 20.5 points a game scored average was light years behind the front-running attacking side Bulldogs at 32.3 points a game.

On the plus side, Nathan Gardner did jump out of the grade and into the NRL with aplomb.

Coach Shane Flanagan says: “We got off to a terrible start and the confidence took a massive hit. It started the ball rolling in the wrong direction and we were out of the running pretty quickly, which was disappointing. We showed in some matches we should be better. And hopefully going forward we will be.”

Conclusion … At the end of the day the Sharks never gave this premiership a shake. They were behind the eight ball from the get go and never inspired any confidence in fans or punters. But, the pain and purge that was needed happened – and perhaps Flanagan can now use the better finish to the year to his advantage.

They have recruited a few big names in Jeremy Smith and Wade Graham and hope to get a few more people on board. They were gummy Sharks in 2010 … but perhaps some teeth are finally starting to grow.