Why the Sharks will be bottom 4 next year (from a Sharks tragic!)
The Sharks have regressed this year. Got worse. Much, much worse. Those with their heads in the sand will say: “oh, they still made the finals, they are in a rebuild, they are 200K below in the cap”.
But these are excuses. And focusing on these achieves....? Yep, nothing. Just gives a person some immediate gratification. Some breathing space. Pretty much just makes them feel good in the short term. A sense of security; a warm blanket while they are in a blizzard - while in denial they are actually in a blizzard.
The “rebuild” is a myth. Ask the Storm or the Roosters. It is simply an excuse for board members and coaches to stay in a job a bit longer. If you get the club in order with long term planning, there should be no need for rebuilding. Even saying rebuild is acknowledging failure - the clubs are admitting they had a grand house, they let it fall down and now they need to build it back up. But why did they let it fall down? Broncos board - stop blaming Seibold, I’m also talking to you.
The Sharks should not be in the finals. Never in history has a draw been such a big influence on a season; with 16 teams and just 20 rounds. Cronulla won the lottery with their draw; no two ways about it. Playing the Warriors, Titans and Cowboys all twice and when the former two weren’t in form. There’s 6 of their 10 wins. Add in an average victory vs the dragons, an unconvincing 2 point win vs the Dogs and a get-out-jail win against the infamous Broncos team. Perhaps the only decent game they had was against Manly but even then they leaked 22 points against Brendon Elliott and the boys. Bring on the Raiders this week hey!
Looking to next year, it’s not about this years results - it’s about how they played. For a decade, the Sharks prided themselves on being gritty; dragging teams down to a street fight and beating them with toughness. Before it clicked at the start of 2010s, they had a season in 2007 under Ricky Stuart where they had almost 10 losses by 4 points or less. One could argue seasons like that laid the foundations for 2016. Flash forward to 2020 and they ‘lead’ the NRL for most missed tackles - 673 - almost 50 more than the next team. Who doesn’t love attack but everyone knows ‘you’ve gotta to earn the right’ to attack first and foremost.
The 2017 U/20s NYC Cronulla team were like the 2001 Parramatta NRL side. One loss throughout the season. Halfback Kyle Flanagan scoring over 300 points, a record. They even hit 90 on the scoreboard one game. But, like the Eels, they are known as they best team not to win the grand final. In fact, the Sharks didn’t even make the grand final. Clearly when they got to the finals, they didn’t have the defensive grit to take the next step. Their coach that year? John Morris.
Excluding the favourable draw, the Sharks on performances are really a 12-13th team in 2020; down from 7th in 2019 and 4th in 2018.
Shaun Johnson will miss the start of next year and will need several weeks to build some match fitness too. Andrew Fifita, Matt Moylan, Josh Dugan, Aaron Woods and Wade Graham are all a year older. Some will say ‘but there’s plenty of good young players’ - and there is. But last week I wrote about the culture of the Raiders and the Storm. How it doesn’t matter the reputations of players but the culture of the club; day in, day out. And hey, look how those reserve grade teams performed on the weekend.
Next year, the Sharks squad will have enter a 3rd season being exposed to this ineffective culture that places no emphasis on defence. From little things big things grow and that applies to little bad habits. The concrete of those habits in defence are starting to set as stone. Unless the Sharks can address their defensive issues, that downward spiral will continue to slide right down to the bottom 4.
Is there a solution? Their current assistant coach Craig Sandercock is moving on. There is a former coach from Belmore who, despite their lack of results, certainly got his players to play with a good defensive attitude. There’s also a premiership winning coach who has left the ‘gong and still living in the Shire.
Watch this space.