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One giant ASADA fiasco, two mid-season retirements, three coaches, an endless injury toll and the inevitability of winning their first wooden spoon since 1969 - to call it a season from hell would be an understatement.

But there's a silver lining to the Cronulla Sharks' season.

In a year where vital trio Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis didn't play a single game together and many other stars had limited game-time, the Sharks have blooded an incredible nine debutants.

The Sharks have used a remarkable 36 players this season - and this will only benefit them in future years. 

Winger Valentine Holmes and forward Junior Roqica will feature against the Cowboys in Round 25 for their fifth first-grade appearance each. Belmore-bound hooker Michael Lichaa will strap up for his 15th, although his time in the shire is nearing an end.

Scott Sorenson and Sione Masima will line up as well against North Queensland after making their debuts against Canberra this past Sunday. 

The Sharks' bad run with injuries and off-field issues also handed debuts to winger Jacob Gagan (hamstring), five-eighth Fa'amanu Brown (knee) and prop David Fifita (ankle), before each were subsequently ruled out for the season.

Utility Penani Manumalealii has bided his time in NSW Cup but this shared experience throughout the club will prove invaluable come 2015.

The Sydney Roosters finished last in 2009, when they had 12 players debut including the likes of Martin Kennedy, Tom Symonds and Sisa Waqa. The very next season the club featured in the grand final.

Newcastle finished with the wooden spoon and had nine debutants in 2005 – 12 months later the club made the top four. Jarrod Mullen and Kade Snowden are a testament to this success while the likes of current Titans Matthew White and Brad Tighe have gone on to forge successful NRL careers.

You only have to talk to young superstar in the making Valentine Holmes to realise the opportunities afforded to him by his move down from Townsville, which he described as a "dream come true". 

"I love every bit of it. It is good to be around the boys and be in the NRL environment," Holmes told

"It is very tough and very fast. It is very physical – a lot more so than the 20s. The physicality of the NRL is way tougher. You can't make any half breaks or little tackle breaks like you can in 20s because in first-grade you usually get pumped."

While he hadn't expected to be handed his debut this season, he maintained that he was ready for the big show.

"I'm still young and I still have another year of 20s to go so I was in no rush [to debut] but it finally happened. I've had a few NSW Cup games but that doesn't match the intensity of first grade," Holmes said.

"It is a lot better for me."

For Holmes and his seven other 2014 debutants who will move into their second NRL season at Cronulla next year, their tough initiations will stand them in good stead when they arrive at pre-season training. 

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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