Cronulla have a potent combination of both experience and youth and have plenty of quality strewn through the side. Their combination of two former New Zealand Warriors in the halves, Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend, should find it easy working off the back of the Sharks’ sizeable pack. Andrew Fifita alongside Aaron Woods pack a punch while Wade Graham and Briton Nikora, both at opposite ends of the experience spectrum, had excellent years for Cronulla last year in the back row.
Jayden Brailey has left the club allowing his younger brother Blayke to take his hooking role. But the club have also moved to secure Cameron King from Featherstone Rovers as a backup to Brailey.
King had a great season with the Rovers last year, but it was always on the cards that he would return to his native Australia and take up a contract in the NRL.
In the backs, Matt Moylan still has a point to prove after moving to Cronulla a few years ago from Penrith Panthers while Jesse Ramien has returned to Cronulla after an ill-fated move to Newcastle for a year.
The Sharks did well in unearthing a star in teenage centre Bronson Xerri, not to mention the discovery of Nikora touched on earlier. He possesses incredible speed and will surely slot straight into the Sharks’ first XIII throughout the season despite his tender age. Meanwhile, Josh Dugan has the versatility to be used wherever Cronulla need him in the backline.
Coach: John Morris
John Morris (above) still hasn’t turned 40 yet but he’s been in charge of the Sharks for a full season.
Morris replaced Shane Flanagan when he left the club and enjoyed a decent opening season with Cronulla.
The Sharks’ playoff hopes ended with a defeat to Manly Sea Eagles but Morris did well to get them that far with injuries plaguing their season throughout 2019.
Morris played over 100 games for the Sharks mainly at hooker after stints with the Knights, Eels and Tigers in the 00s.
Star Player: Andrew Fifita
It’s quite tough to pick a star out of the Cronulla Sharks lineup. There are a lot of quality players in the side. But the one who has the biggest impact is Andrew Fifita (pictured, top).
Unsurprisingly, he’s very much made in the same mould as his twin brother David who plays for Wakefield. He is an unassuming, bruising prop forward but one who possesses great skill with the ball.
His ability to offload makes him dangerous. When defenders step off him, expecting either a pass or a late offload, he piles through them with his strength.
Rugby League World Predicts: 5th
First published in Rugby League World, Issue 467 (March 2020)