Here is all you need to know about the Cronulla Sharks ahead of the 2022 Telstra Premiership season.
It's a case of out with the old and in with the new at Cronulla as the ambitious Sharks aim to make a serious tilt at a second NRL premiership in 2022. The sacking of coach John Morris effectively derailed their 2021 prospects but it was a sacrifice that will prove worthwhile if Craig Fitzgibbon can deliver the grand final glory the club desperately seeks. With their best football likely to be behind them, Shaun Johnson, Chad Townsend, Aaron Woods, Josh Dugan and Will Chambers were allowed to leave as the Sharks re-shaped the roster. Youngsters Will Kennedy, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Blayke Brailey and Braydon Trindall are seen as the future and they will have Dale Finucane and Cameron McInnes as role models, while Nicho Hynes is set to call the shots at halfback.
Possible best 17
1. Will Kennedy, 2. Sione Katoa, 3. Jesse Ramien, 4. Matt Ikuvalu, 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 6. Nicho Hynes, 7. Braydon Trindall, 8. Dale Finucane, 9. Blayke Brailey, 10. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Cameron McInnes, 14. Connor Tracey, 15. Teig Wilton, 16. Toby Rudolf, 17. Siosifa Talakai.
The Sharks are the only team to have recruited a new coach next season and the expectations are high for Fitzgibbon after serving as Trent Robinson's right hand man at the Roosters since 2013 and being a member of Brad Fittler's NSW Origin staff. On the field, Cronulla have recruited strongly, with Finucane and McInnes to provide leadership and Hynes direction as the chief playmaker. Fitzgibbon has also lured strike back Matt Ikuvalu from the Roosters and he is a likely centre option. Big name veterans Josh Dugan, Shaun Johnson, Chad Townsend, Aaron Woods and Will Chambers have all moved on.
Finucane settles into new Shire surroundings
Captain Wade Graham's season was prematurely ended in round 14 after a series of concussions, while there were genuine fears for the life - not just career - of Andrew Fifita after a blow to the throat caused breathing difficulties that required emergency laryngeal surgery. Graham is expected to be ready for round one while anyone hearing Fifita's non-stop chatter at pre-season training would have no idea he had needed to be placed in an induced coma. Mulitalo has also recovered from a broken jaw and rookie prop Franklin Pele has also been training strongly and is expected to play in the pre-season trials after a foot injury ended his 2021 season.
Biggest question mark
The Sharks were light on for outside backs last season and it is again an area where they appear to lack depth. Kennedy is now firmly entrenched as fullback with Matt Moylan, Connor Tracey or Luke Metcalf as his back-ups but if Jesse Ramien or Ronaldo Mulitalo are unavailable the centre and wing options are extremely thin. Tracey regularly played those positions last season but he is a half and Ikuvalu is expected to play centre at Cronulla, while second-rower Teig Wilton is another likely to be called on to fill the role.
A tricky trip to Canberra opens Cronulla's season before a long-awaited return to Pointsbet to host the Eels in round two. The Dragons away then Knights at home round out an opening month that on paper could just as easily finish 0-4 as 4-0. Expect to learn plenty about the Sharks over this period.
Round 17 to 20 sees the Sharks host minor premiers Melbourne before flying to Townsville, travelling out west to face premiers Penrith then returning home to host runners-up South Sydney in a gruelling month of footy.
Make it count
Things ease up straight after that with the Sharks hosting the Dragons in round 21 then playing the Tigers at Tamworth in round 22. Manly at 4Pines in round 23 is easily the toughest game of the run home before the Sharks finish by hosting the Bulldogs then heading up to the Hunter to face the Knights. If Cronulla are a strong finals candidate when that run starts they should be winning at least three if not four of those games.
NRL Fantasy: Sharks 2022 prices
Cameron McInnes: MID, $780,000
Aiden Tolman: MID, $625,000
Nicho Hynes: HLF/WFB, $602,000
Matt Ikuvalu: WFB, $586,000
Jesse Ramien: CTR, $578,000
Blayke Brailey: HOK, $570,000
Toby Rudolf: MID, $551,000
Briton Nikora: EDG, $550,000
Jack Williams: MID, $504,000
William Kennedy: WFB, $499,000
Teig Wilton: EDG, $484,000
Sione Katoa: WFB, $484,000
Braydon Trindall: HLF, $478,000
Dale Finucane: MID, $476,000
Wade Graham: EDG, $461,000
Ronaldo Mulitalo: WFB, $445,000
Connor Tracey: HLF/WFB, $407,000
Matt Moylan: HLF/WFB, $379,000
Braden Hamlin-Uele: MID, $362,000
Siosifa Talakai: EDG, $337,000
Mawene Hiroti: WFB, $329,000
Luke Metcalf: HLF, $240,000
Andrew Fifita: MID, $240,000
Royce Hunt: MID, $240,000
Franklin Pele: MID, $240,000
Jenson Taumoepeau: CTR, $220,000
Jayden Berrell: HOK, $220,000
Locky Miller: HLF, $220,000