In 2016, in front of 83,625 raucous, madly cheering spectators, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks hoisted aloft for the first time in 50 years, their first-ever NRL Premiership. They had finally achieved the impossible and Harold Holt could finally turn his porchlights off. They were the new dream-boys of Rugby League as they overcame the Melbourne Storm 14-12, in what was a ferocious, yet brilliant game of Rugby League.
However, since that fairy-tale moment of NRL folklore, the Sharks have been in a steep decline on the field. And for one of the most passionate fan-bases in Australia, it’s been an ugly sight to behold. From poor finishes right through to poor players, here are some contributing factors as to why Cronulla are now the savaged Sharkies. Also, a shoutout to good old ASADA, but enough has been written about them already.
Yes, while they have finished in the finals each of the past three campaigns following their historic Grand Final victory, they have done very poorly in each of the finals series attached to those respective seasons. And for a club with Cronulla’s supposed talent, the finals should be their bare minimum aim to achieve for each campaign. In 2017 they were knocked out by the Cowboys in the first week of the finals, 15-14. North Queensland had just scraped into 8th spot that year.
The 2018 season saw them lose 2/3 finals matches that they participated in. They went down 21-12 to the Roosters, then just two weeks later they were hammered 22-6 by the Storm. Poor finals performances yet again! Something that the club has rued throughout their entire history.
And then in 2019, they somehow managed to finish in 7th spot, despite it being Paul Gallen’s final playing year at the club. The Broncos, Tigers, Panthers, Knights and Bulldogs all finished either one or two games behind them. The Sharks won a total of 12/24 games to qualify for that spot. Not a great record! They were then easily beaten 28-16 in the first week of the finals by Manly.
Making the finals is one thing, but doing some actual damage in them is a completely different thing. And the Sharks have been nothing but limp in the finals as of late.
It’s not a good sign that when it comes to this section of the article, that there are a fair few players that come to mind. They might be over-paid, not performing well enough or it could be down to a myriad of other factors.
First names that come to mind are Shaun Johnson and Josh Dugan. Johnson was instrumental in the Warriors Grand Final appearance in 2011. Suffice to say he certainly has not lived up to his reported one-million dollars a year salary post-then. When it comes to that sort of money, you need to be the star of the team. And he is anything but – during his tenure with the Sharks, he’s gone missing in the big games and only sometimes does he display his vintage Warriors-like form.
As for Dugan, before he came to Cronulla, he was a renowned Centre who scored 55 tries for the Dragons and Raiders. Now he’s the player whose off-field image has yet to improve and the player who is also constantly injured. In 2018 he played just 14 matches and this year before the start of the new campaign, he reportedly tried to get himself medically retired. Well, he’s played in 3 of Cronulla’s 5 games so far. So clearly he’s capable of doing some work, but like Johnson, he is overpaid and just does not do enough to justify his large pay-packet each week.
These two players are representative of Cronulla’s lazy, somewhat over-compensated veteran group, who overall pull the squad down more than they pull them up. And all of this has been happening since their sweet success over the Storm back in 2016.
Fall From Grace
In 2018 when the Sharks won just 12/24 matches, they had a back-line featuring Dugan, Holmes, Lee and Ramien. Then their supposedly fearsome forward pack included the ‘G-Train’, Fifita, Woods and Bukuya among others. All those players listed have played or currently play Rep Footy and they still couldn’t get past the first week of the finals. Not everyone listed here is to blame, but some sure as hell are. And that’s just a representation of one of the many on-field problems Cronulla currently face as a franchise. Best of luck to them, but it will be a long time before they get back to where they once were.