I have to concede that, were one to look back through my columns during season 2012, one might suspect me of some kind of anti-Sharks bias.
I consistently labelled them as overachievers who would fall at the most important hurdles. Luckily for my fragile ego, Cronulla did indeed fail their biggest test in 2012: an elimination semi against Canberra away from home.
The team’s biggest problem, which was a lack of true gamebreaking ability across the park, let them down (a subdued performance in all aspects of the game didn’t help them either).
So here we are in 2013. The Mayans were wrong, as was Mark Geyer, who predicted the world’s end upon hearing of the new shoulder charge ban.
The caravan of life has moved on, and I find myself looking at Cronulla’s squad for the upcoming season.
Some new faces, same problem.
Who’s going to break open the elite teams aside from Todd Carney?
It perplexes me that supposedly well-educated league scribes continue to be charmed by teams that add forward power to the point of naming them premiership favourites.
Last season, Wests Tigers added Adam Blair, who was supposed to be their ‘key ingredient’ in winning another title. I guess the rest of us were just supposed to overlook the fact that they had no three-quarters, an untested fullback and an experiment in the halves.
When will they learn: while possessing a powerful, athletic pack should make a team eminently more competitive, it can’t win you a competition. Even the champion Canterbury teams of the mid-80s that revolutionised the way defence was played contained match-winners like Terry Lamb, Steve Mortimer and Mick Potter.
Class wins premierships. The go-forward and defensive grunt aspects can be manipulated and/or replaced.
Cronulla have added more go-forward, workrate and power in the form of Luke Lewis, Chris Heighington and Bryce Gibbs, but who’s going to win them the close games with their creativity?
Michael Gordon could be very good at fullback. Possibly. We’ll see. Jeff Robson will be the bland understudy to the star halfback who may never appear. Isaac De Gois at dummy half? Not raising the hairs on the necks of ruck defenders.
The Sharks have high hopes for the young Fijian Ratini and a Kiwi kid named Sosaia Feki who did some damage in the Toyota Cup with the Warriors, but as of right now they’re about where they were last year, with a little extra muscle and punch in the forwards.
Certainly nothing to worry any of the teams that finished above them last season.
My last word on the Sharks (for today): despite this glitzy development funding they’ve been able to procure, fans shouldn’t be complacent about the club’s long-term future in the south of Sydney.
With suburban grounds due to be phased out over the next ten years, a club in an area as isolated as the Sutherland Shire, far away from either Allianz or ANZ, should have cause to worry.
Now bring on the hate mail, Sharks fans.