Cronulla Sharks: Destined For More NRL Glory This Season?

Source: Cronulla Sharks via Facebook

The Cronulla Sharks were by far and away the strongest side in the NRL last year and you won’t find many fans who would argue against their victory over Melbourne Storm in the Grand Final. Conceding just 12 points in the showpiece event was a fine achievement but to do so against one of the finest attacking sides in the world eclipsed all expectations ahead of the contest.
This time around, Melbourne will almost certainly be their main rivals once again in the race for the title. As of May 16, Cronulla are sitting pretty in second – just two points behind the Storm at the top of the table. The Sharks, priced at 13/2 in the latest odds to retain their title, will be quietly confident of toppling Melbourne when it matters most of all. For now, a spot in the playoff spaces will suffice.

As good as Melbourne have been, Cronulla have handed Storm the initiative after a number of poor performances on home soil. The Sharks have won all six of their away fixtures so far this season but have won just one of their four league games at home. Go figure. If Cronulla are serious about defending their crown, they must shore up on home soil – especially near the end of the campaign.

Cronulla lost just six matches last year, finishing 3rd in the regular season standings before going on to win a first title in the club’s long 49-year history. This campaign has been tricky in the sense that Australia’s elite sides are all gunning for the Sharks but Cronulla have dealt with the expectation brilliantly so far. With seven wins from their opening ten fixtures, they are right up there where they want to be.

According to reports, James Maloney has been linked with a move away from the defending champions – and his departure could be catastrophic to their aspirations. The two-time title winner signed a three year deal that will see him stay with Cronulla until 2018 but he may push for a move away unless the Sharks offer him a lucrative contract extension. When you consider that Anthony Milford is set to earn $1 million a season for the next four years, Maloney is criminally underpaid.

Scoring tries hasn’t been a problem for Cronulla this season but Valentine Holmes hasn’t been anywhere near as prolific in 2017 as he was last year. Fortunately, Sosiaka Feki has helped to fill the void and Sharks fans will be hoping that their key men step up to the plate later in the campaign. Don’t write Cronulla’s main personalities off just yet – the season is still young.
Give the Sharks an opportunity and they will, more often than not, take it. Cronulla ended a long run without success last season and they will be quietly confident of pipping their rivals to the crown once again. But with the Melbourne Storm and a few of Australia’s other major players building momentum, it will be very difficult. Cronulla have the nous, the experience and the talent; it is now all about application over the next few months.

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