Per the League Live App, a recent quote from Sharks coach John Morris read, “We can do something solid this year if we continue to show up with that character and defensive resilience”. My question for the former 300-game NRL veteran is what exactly are you talking about?
I understand that every coach, no matter how poor their team might be, or no matter how poorly they may be playing, will in a lot of scenarios try to motivate them and get them hyped up. But for me, this is too far-fetched even for the most optimistic player or fan. The Sutherland-Shire side has struggled mightily this year against the NRL’s best and should prove to be cannon-fodder for whoever they end up facing in week one of the finals.
I’m going to break down that far-fetched quote into a couple of different sections to debunk what he is saying. And keep this in mind, only two weeks ago the Sharkies were whooped by a struggling Newcastle side, to the tune of 38 points to 10! A match in which they leaked 7 tries and scored just 2 completing just 72% of their sets! Anyways, onwards we go.
Dating back to their Qualifying Final of last season, the Sharks had the chance to potentially lead then-retiring club legend, Paul Gallen, to what could’ve been a second career Premiership. Instead, the Sea Eagles bounced them out with relative ease, to the tune of a 28-16, at Brookvale. And to make matters worse for the club, they conceded the opening 3 tries of the match, all within the games opening 20 minutes!
That disappointment was backed up in RD1 of this new campaign. Despite their late flurry of tries, they went down 22-18 to the Rabbitohs, at ANZ Stadium. Then in RD2, at Kogarah, a 77th minute Cameron Smith PG, saw them pip Cronulla by 2 points.
Fast-forward to RD9, there Penrith absolutely humiliated them at Jubilee Stadium, 56 points to 24! Their leaky defensive display saw them concede a MASSIVE 10 tries! Whilst they owned just 42% possession of the ball throughout the match.
Not too sure what’s all that solid about that?
Four matches later, it was the Eels who beat them, 14-12. The Sharks were utterly hopeless in this match, as they kicked 0/3 conversions. They also let a perfectly good Mulitalo double go to waste (52nd and 55th mins).
Then in RD15, the Panthers again beat them with ease, this time it was 38-12, in Penrith. They conceded the opening try in the games opening four minutes and from there the Panther onslaught started.
And then just two weeks ago it was their previously mentioned 28-point defeat at the hands of Newcastle, in Newcastle. A match in which they were literally murdered!
It’s all good to beat the sides worse than you, which the Sharks have done plenty of this season (for example 40-10 vs the Titans and 40-22 vs the Sea Eagles). But they are yet to beat a single Top Eight side so far this season. A rather alarming statistic! How could they possibly achieve anything solid this season, if they can’t show that they can topple even one of the sides they’re bound to face in the finals in a couple of weeks? Cronulla has proven this season that they are the best of the bottom half of the league’s teams. But when it comes to playing with the big boys, they’ll get beat every single time. Cronulla being in the finals will be about as solid as it’ll get for them this year.
Of their starting line-up that beat the Warriors 22-14 last round, there’s a lot of non-characters within the side.
Starting at Full Back, Kennedy is just 23 years of age. He’s also a relatively in-experienced player. And great Full Backs traditionally help you make great runs in finals series. Just look at what the likes of Brett Stewart or Billy Slater who were able to achieve for their teams back in the day! Or even more modern with the likes of Tedesco and Mitchell running the show currently.
Onto Dugan, the Centre is the complete opposite of Kennedy. At 30 years of age, he’s nearing the end of his career. He’s battled injuries throughout the season and from 14 games so far, he’s crossed for just 4 tries. He’s a player who is far past his career-best form now.
Now looking at Connor Tracey in the Halves. Having Shaun Johnson is brilliant! But his Halves partner has just 15 games of experience to his name in his entire NRL career. Whilst he’s a decent enough player, he’s nowhere near the level of a Cronk, or a Munster or a DCE. Modern-day Halves who have all helped their teams claim awesome Premiership victories.
And then in the Forwards, again there’s a lot of in-experience there. Hamlin-Uele is just 21 years old. Talakai is only two years older. Nikora is also only 22 years old. Whilst Rudolp is another starting youngster on the books at Cronulla. And while all these guys have their entire careers ahead of them, they are just simply not a forward-pack that has developed a lot of character yet.
Ultimately, this entire Cronulla squad is riddled with non-characters such as the ones just mentioned. That’s not to say that the club doesn’t have some characters (which it does), or ever show character (which it also does). But, they don’t have enough of those above-average players in key positions to challenge the top-teams. And even if they did, they rarely display character against them. They’ve lost plenty of close games to the best sides this year, but one of the things they lacked was character. Which in turn is why they were unable to close them out. Sorry, Mr Morris, you don’t have character/s in any sense of the word!
In exactly 50% (9/18) of their games so far this shortened-season, they have conceded 20 or more points.
Some of the more troubling points-totals have been when they conceded 28 to the Tigers in RD3. When they leaked 30 to St George in RD5. When the Eagles scored 22 in RD7. When the Panthers scored 56 in RD9! When the Broncs put up 26 in RD12. And when both Penrith (RD15) and Newcastle (RD17), put up 38 points each.
It’s unclear how that resembles any sort of defensive resilience?
The Panthers are the team-to-beat this season. They have won 16 of their 18 games so far, and, they have a draw to their name. In the Sharks two games against them so far this campaign, they have conceded a combined 90 points. This alone makes Morris’s claim laughable.
They played well to keep the Warriors to 14 points last round, which is the match that this quote came from. But the Warriors ain’t playing finals footy this year. However, you are Cronulla. That leaky defence, plus all their young, in-experienced forwards. How on earth does he expect them to display defensive resilience? I rest my case!
From Geoff Toovey’s infamous “There’s got to be an investigation” right through to coaches kicking over chairs and kicking doors. Ricky Stuart’s sprays as well and once when a coach forced their team to stay on the field at HT, the NRL has seen all the craziness when it comes to it’s much loved, but also sometimes much-perplexing coaches. This quote is in amongst it as a fairly perplexing and just straight up blatantly wrong one. If he ends up being right, fair play to him! But if he’s wrong, as expected, it’ll just be a case of what the hell were you babbling on about mate.
Well, I guess it’s over to you now John. Good luck to Cronulla in this year’s finals series, they’ll need all of it and then some.