Cronulla scraped into eighth position and extended their streak of playing finals footy to six years in 2020; a pass mark after another challenging season.
Drama unfolded before the campaign began as breakout centre Bronson Xerri was provisionally suspended by the NRL. The club's outside back stocks thinned after veteran Josh Morris was released to join his brother Brett at the Roosters after two rounds.
Injuries wreaked havoc on the Sharks in 2019 and they again had an impact this year. Matt Moylan and Andrew Fifita were constantly hampered, but the biggest blow came when the red-hot Shaun Johnson suffered an Achilles rupture with the playoffs in sight.
As their playmaking magician watched from afar, Cronulla bowed out in week one of the finals against the Raiders.
Sharks' top five tries of 2020
Home and Away record
They were hardly alone, but the Sharks didn't enjoy much home familiarity. With PointsBet Stadium being rebuilt, they were forced to play at Netstrata Jubilee Oval in Kogarah. Then after the COVID-19 break, Cronulla played out of Bankwest Stadium for a period.
Their home-and-away record was fitting of their season - middling. The Sharks' biggest win was against the Warriors at Central Coast Stadium in round 10 (46-10). That was just a week after their heaviest loss of the season to minor premiers Penrith at Kogarah (56-24).
Run metres differential
Somewhat surprisingly for a team that had so much attacking firepower, Cronulla struggled to gain metres with an average of 1644 per game - 10th in the competition.
But they were the fifth-best at restricting their opponents' yardage, conceding an average of 1619m per game (fifth). That equated to a run metre differential of +25.5, the seventh-best return this year.
Try scoring - game time
The Sharks scored the sixth-most tries (88) including finals. They struck most often in the 20 minutes before half-time, scoring 25 four-pointers (28.4 percent of their total) from the 20th to the 40th-minute marks.
Cronulla were strong finishers too, according to the stats, with 23 tries (26.1 percent) in the final 20 minutes of matches.
Tries conceded - game time
Their attack was strong, but the Sharks' defence negated that. They conceded one more try (89) than they scored. Concerningly, they ranked 11th in this metric and conceded 14 more tries than South Sydney, who were the next-worst top-eight team defensively.
Improving the side's starts may be a priority for coach John Morris in 2021, with Cronulla leaking 24 tries (26.9 percent) in the opening 20 minutes. The last quarter of games was a worry with 22 tries.
Tries scored/conceded from six-agains
It would seem the Sharks adapted best to the six-again ruck infringement rule. Morris's men bagged 20 tries after a six-again call, one more than the Rabbitohs in second place.
However, while the likes of Shaun Johnson clearly enjoyed playing off the front foot, Cronulla conceded 18 tries after ruck infringements.
Metres gained from offloads
Jesse Ramien bounced back to somewhere near his destructive best upon returning to Cronulla, but the centre proved to be much more than a damaging ball-runner as he topped the team's offload count.
Ramien threw 24 offloads from which his teammates made 167.7 metres. Explosive prop Braden Hamlin-Uele (19 offloads, 170.4m), winger Sione Katoa (19 offloads, 161.2m) and Andrew Fifita (17 offloads, 81.4m) also started plenty of second-phase play.
Much was made of the Sharks' goal-kicking in 2019 after missed conversions cost them several wins and most likely a top-four berth.
Cronulla jumped from a 70.3 percent success rate last season to 77.8 in 2020, raising the touch judges' flags with 70 of 90 attempts.
Shaun Johnson (56 goals at 76 percent) was the main kicker with Chad Townsend, Matt Moylan and Mawene Hiroti stepping up at times.
Despite injuries to key men, the Sharks were one of six teams to use less than 30 players, ranking equal-eleventh with 29.
Morris has become known as a coach who isn't afraid to blood young talent and he continued that trend by handing debuts to Toby Rudolf, Braydon Trindall, Teig Wilton, Daniel Vasquez and Jackson Ferris.
Cronulla ranked fourth for tackle breaks with 30.8 per game, eclipsing premiers Melbourne (29.3) in this department.
Winger Sione Katoa's acrobatic try-scoring skills defined his season, but he also showed himself to be a strong ball-carrier - averaging a team-high 4.3 tackle breaks per game.
Not far behind was his regular wing partner Ronaldo Mulitalo (3.6 tackle breaks per game) and prop Andrew Fifita (3.4).
While often slipping out of the grasp of their opponents, Cronulla's own missed tackle count was an issue. The Shire boys missed the most tackles per game on average with 35.4.
Canterbury and the Gold Coast (both 32.4) were next.
2020 Form Guide
|1||Rabbitohs||ANZ Stadium, Sydney||Lost 22-18|
|2||Storm||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney||Lost 10-12|
|3||Wests Tigers||Bankwest Stadium, Sydney||Lost 16-28|
|4||Cowboys||Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville||Won 16-26|
|5||Dragons||Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney||Lost 30-16|
|6||Bulldogs||Bankwest Stadium, Sydney||Won 20-18|
|7||Sea Eagles||Central Coast Stadium, Central Coast||Won 22-40|
|8||Titans||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Won 10-40|
|9||Panthers||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney||Lost 24-56|
|10||Warriors||Central Coast Stadium, Central Coast||Won 10-46|
|11||Dragons||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney||Won 28-24|
|12||Broncos||Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane||Won 36-26|
|13||Eels||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney||Lost 12-14|
|14||Titans||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney||Won 30-18|
|15||Panthers||Panthers Stadium, Penrith||Lost 38-12|
|16||Cowboys||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney||Won 28-12|
|17||Knights||McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle||Lost 38-10|
|18||Warriors||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney||Won 22-14|
|19||Roosters||Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney||Lost 34-18|
|20||Raiders||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney||Lost 28-38|
|Finals Week 1||Raiders||GIO Stadium, Canberra||Lost 32-20|