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Saturday, 2 March 2013

NRL 2013: Cronulla Sharks Season Preview

Season Preview:
CRONULLA SHARKS

2013 NRL Premiership

By W D Nicolson - March 2, 2013


Last Year: 7th with a 12-11-1 (+4) record and 29 points.

@NRLTweet's BRIEF
Expectations are sky-high in the Shire after another aggressive off-season signing spree, but how do all those forwards get enough minutes every week? Coach Shane Flanagan has an embarrassment of riches for the first time since taking charge of the Sharks - so it's almost a playoffs or bust scenario in 2013.

Click Logo for 2013 Team Preview | Link added when published



IMPACT PLAYERS
Michael Gordon is the prized pickup as he gives the Sharks exactly what they needed - a guy who can break the line by himself. He's locked in at fullback for 2013. International Luke Lewis could be just as important if he gets the right role in the side, while Beau Ryan is a very nifty signing, as is Jonathan Wright who did a good job on the wing for the Dogs last year. Then there is Chris Heighinton who is a handy addition but where does he fit in?


BEST LINE-UP | If every player is available, this is the top squad listed 1-17.
Michael GORDON
Nathan GARDNER
Beau RYAN
Jayson BUKUYA
Jonathan WRIGHT
Todd CARNEY
Jeff ROBSON
Bryce GIBBS
Isaac DE GOIS
Andrew FIFITA
Chris HEIGHINGTON
Luke LEWIS
Paul GALLEN
Bench:
Wade GRAHAM
Anthony TUPOU
Ben ROSS
John MORRIS
Coach:
Shane FLANAGAN

Remainder of Top 25 Squad/NSW Cup:
Rodney COATES, Sosaia FEKI, Jon GREEN, Ricky LEULTELE, Penani MANUMALEALII, Stewart MILLS, Daniel MOROKO, Tyrone PEACHEY, Ben POMEROY, Alipate RATINI, Tupou SOPOAGA, Nathan STAPLETON, Sam TAGATAESE, Mark TAUFUA, Chad TOWNSEND, Matthew WRIGHT.
Notables from U20s:
Michael LICHAA, Sione MASIMA, Tokerau RARU, Jake WALSH.

PREDICTED ROUND 1 TEAM
Bryce Gibbs is a big pre-season casualty with an Achilles injury, so Ben Ross might get a first grade repreive after falling behind Mark Taufua and Jon Green on the prop depth chart. Todd Carney expects to be named for Round 1 but he's no certainty, with Chad Townsend on standby. Luke Lewis should also be fit but may come off the bench. Ben Pomeroy has had no football yet, so Matthew Wright is favoured to start the year in first grade. There's a chance Anthony Tupou could miss out entirely...
CRO: M Gordon, M Wright, Ryan, J Wright, Gardner/Stapleton, Carney, Robson, Fifita, De Gois, Taufua, Bukuya, Heighington, Gallen.
Bench: Lewis, Morris, Graham, Ross.

Need an update on who will or won't play in Round 1?
Make sure you take a look at our dedicated NRL Injured List

YOUNGSTER WATCH
With such a veteran squad, opportunities in the top grade will be few and far between for the youngsters in the squad. Sosaia Feki is a big centre who plied his trade in NSW Cup last year after joining from the Warriors, while backrower/centre Tupou Sopoaga was picked up from the Dogs this off-season. The club is very high on NYC rake Michael Lichaa and he is probably 3rd on the hooking depth chart - meaning if John Morris or Isaac De Gois get hurt he might get a cup of coffee in the top grade this year.

HOME GAME YOU CAN'T MISS
The season opener isn't a sexy matchup with the Titans in town for the first Sunday Night footy game, but Round 4 against the Dragons on March 30 at 'Sharks Stadium' is a biggy. Not only because it is a local rivalry, but the Sharks think they are a contender this year and they can shut up the vocal fans of their rival with a convincing victory early in the season.

PLAYOFF CHANCES
Don't count your chickens...
But the depth of the Sharks and the extra quality they added in the off-season makes them a superb chance of playing in September. The concern however is the health of two key parts from last year's playoff run - five-eighth Todd Carney and prop Bryce Gibbs. Carney is 50/50 for Round 1 which suggests he's going to be short of a run for the first month or so of the season, while Gibbs misses 3 months after re-injuring his Achilles in a trial. As great as their recruitment has been - uncertainty over their contributions in the first half of the season might keep them out of the running for the Top 4.


@NRLTweet's PREDICTED REGULAR SEASON FINISH
6th | Management has done a fantastic job of reshaping the Sharks the past two off-seasons and the Cronulla faithful expect this squad to compete for a premiership... but realistically do the words 'contender' and 'Cronulla' belong in the same sentence? Season 2013 is this squad's chance to prove that to be the case.

The NRL Injury List is updated regularly during each week of the season, making it an invaluable Fantasy and Tipping Tool alongside our Weekly NRL Previews once again.

Remember if you want game-specific Late Mail every week, then check out our Round Previews Every Wednesday and they are updated with all the very latest Late Mail on Friday.

If we are missing any players on this list - please comment below, reply on Twitter or email this address.
Can Michael Gordon or Todd Carney (2010 Winner) take Ben Barba's mantle as the game's best player in the 2013 @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards?

The Prestigious Award returns for a 4th season in 2013.

Remember you can track all the votes each week after each match in 2013 via the Twitter hashtag #nrltweetpoty

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