Paul Gallen has declared prized recruits Craig Fitzgibbons, Dale Finucane and Nicho Hynes as the signings to transform Cronulla from also-rans to NRL title contenders.
Cronulla finished out of the finals in ninth spot in 2021 but Gallen believes the Sharks will be among the big improvers next season with the addition of the classy trio.
The Sharks’ only premiership-winning captain says top-four must be the goal.
“That’s what I’m thinking,” Gallen told AAP.
“Obviously a lot can alter that – injuries and suspensions can happen during the year – but with the roster they’ve got, I think they’ll be aiming for that.
“Certainly the top eight.
“The experience they’ve got and the guys they’ve bought (in recent years) – Toby Rudolf, (Braden) Hamlin-Uele, guys like that with a tough year under their belt will hold them in good stead.”
But it’s the luring of Fitzgibbon as head coach from the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne pair Finucane and Hines that most excites Gallen.
“Fitzy’s good. He’ll bring a lot of respect,” Gallen said.
“He’s done his apprenticeship at, bar Melbourne, probably the most successful club in the league over the last 10 or 20 years.
“He comes with good credentials and he’s passionate about it, which is good. He’s going real well.”
Gallen holds Finucane in the highest of regard and said the former Storm star has already added professionalism to the Cronulla ranks.
“The way he trains is the best thing,” former NSW Origin skipper Gallen said.
“I’ve always maintained the reason I was able to play for a long time and do the things I did was because of the way I trained.
“I was never the most talented guy but I trained harder than everyone else and that’s the same about him.
“He is probably at another level to what I was.”
Hynes has proven a revelation during his three seasons at Melbourne and Gallen expected the classy utility to provide the Sharks with some much-needed “X-factor”.
“He played in the halves his whole life apparently; when they first signed him and told me he was playing in the halves, I scratched my head a bit,” Gallen said.
“But they said he played his whole life in the halves. I went back and checked his junior footy and he was always a half or five-eighth, so I’m pretty sure he will play there.
“Will Kennedy had a great year so he’ll probably keep that fullback spot.
“Nicho, he’s got X-factor about him for sure. It’s something you need these days to win a competition.
“You need someone who can pull something out of the box and he can do that.”