It was an inconsistent season for the Cronulla Sharks in 2020, with a 10-10 record before going out in the first week of the finals.
What to expect:
The Sharks have finished as elimination finalists for the past two seasons, but have struggled against fellow top eight sides.
Veteran Josh Dugan said he’s had his best pre-season in years and is eager for another contract despite looking likely to retire.
“I have done four of the five sessions every week and got through everything I have needed to do,” Dugan told NRL.com
“I have only been missing speed and agility, and my body is getting too old to be quick.
“I have got the work in, got the kilometres in the legs, was lifting heavy in the gym and getting strong, and got my body composition right down to where I need to be to play and be comfortable and fit and healthy.”
23-year-old Sione Katoa scored 16 tries in 2020, the fifth-highest in the NRL last year but can he go again? He’ll need halves Chad Townsend, Matt Moylan and Shaun Johnson at their creative best.
Billy Magoulias is gunning for a permanent jersey, starting with this weekend’s game against the Dragons – forcing veteran Andrew Fifita out of the side in a shock selection from coach John Morris.
Can they find consistency?
A 10-10 record is the ultimate show of inconsistency.
The Sharks lost the first three games of the year, and then proceeded to finish the season in the same fashion.
2019 was no different, as they suffered a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season and again bowed out in the first week of the finals.
The Sharks need to snap the streak of their first week fades in September, as they’ve lost the last four games in that week.
A strong start to avoid playing catch-up is what is needed, and taking out the Dragons in Round 1 would ideal.
In the first ten rounds, Sharks play all seven fellow top 8 sides which is sure to test the squad and its depth.
The Sharks side will need to be at the top of their games to pick up wins over the first few months of the competition. It will be a mental test – but may also work in their favour as teams traditionally build slowly into the season.
Blayke Brailey, Josh Dugan, Andrew Fifita, Wade Graham, Braden Hamlin-Uele, Mawene Hiroti, Royce Hunt, Shaun Johnson, Sione Katoa, Will Kennedy, Nene Macdonald, Billy Magoulias, Matt Moylan, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Briton Mikora, Kyle Patterson, Franklin Pele, Jesse Ramien, Toby Rudolf, Siosifa Talakai, Jensen Taumoepea, Aiden Tolman, Chad Townsend, Connor Tracey, Jack Williams, Teig Wilton, Aaron Woods, Bronson Xerri.