Sharks' mid-season review
Their season was dealt a body blow before it even started but unlike 2013, the Sharks haven't been able to bounce back and hold their own on the field.
Ladder Position: 16th.
Overview: It fast became apparent that all was not well for Cronulla when they laced up their boots for their first game of the year. With assistant coach Peter Sharp at the helm following Shane Flanagan's then one-year provisional ban (since confirmed) as a consequence of club governance issues caught up in the ASADA furore, the Sharks have only managed to pull off two wins from 11 starts in a cruel twist of fate that has seen them drop from the final six in 2013 to the bottom of the ladder at the midpoint of the 2014 season.
Injuries have played their part, with an abundance of players missing large blocks of football, and it showed most in their losses to the Bulldogs (42-4 in Round 2), Knights (30-0 in Round 4), Manly (24-4 in Round 6) and Parramatta (42-24 in Round 9).
Otherwise the bounce of the ball hasn't gone their way and several close calls have gone begging. When all is said and done the Sharks simply are missing that edge to put teams away this season.
Positives: Coach Sharp has made one thing clear after the majority of his team's games this season: "They're trying hard." Whether they're training or playing, Sharp knows that at the end of the day they are working themselves to the bone and while they only have two 'W's next to their name they aren't playing necessarily bad, although new obstacles become evident every week.
While Cronulla's squad is currently depleted it has afforded opportunities for their fringe players to obtain NRL experience. Players like Tinirau Arona (11 games), Tupou Sopoaga (seven games) and David Fifita (three games) are receiving an invaluable understanding of first-grade football, while Junior Roqica, Fa'amanu Brown and Jacob Gagan have all made their NRL debuts over the past three weeks.
We can't forget vice-captain Wade Graham either. With Paul Gallen playing only five games this year, Graham has filled the role as team leader with aplomb, generating four tries, five try saves, 21 tackle breaks, 27.5 tackles and 103.8 metres per game.
Negatives: There's nowhere to look when you're missing over 900 games of NRL, 40-plus Origins and 64 Tests of experience. This is the reality that the Sharks have faced throughout this season with Paul Gallen (seven weeks missed), Anthony Tupou (nine weeks), Luke Lewis (10 weeks), Andrew Fifita and Todd Carney (both five weeks) all absent from the side for extended periods of time. It truly is Peter Sharps' and fans worst nightmare.
Cronulla have struggled to capitalise on their opportunities without fielding a consistent side week-in, week-out, to the point where most would be unsurprised if a Sharks rehab session had more players in attendance than training itself. The Sharks have thus far fashioned a mere 36 line breaks (second fewest in the competition) and scored the least amount of points of any team – emphasising that the Sharks are struggling with ball in hand.
Biggest Moment: In a tit-for-tat game against the Panthers in Round 8, Cronulla scored an absolute belter of a try in the final four minutes to secure their second win of the season. They were 40 metres out from their try line, Paul Gallen whizzed a ball out wide to Wade Graham who sliced through Sika Manu and Peter Wallace. With several defenders surrounding him, Graham threw a miraculous ball to Jeff Robson who caught it with one hand before racing away for the match winner.
NRL.com prediction: Even being optimistic tapping results into the Ladder Predictor the cold hard fact is the Sharks will struggle to avoid the bottom two rungs on the ladder come the conclusion of Round 26.