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NRL Round 1 predicted teams: Cronulla Sharks - Fitzgibbon puts faith in familiar faces in fight to break finals jinx

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3rd January, 2024
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As part of a series profiling the expected Round 1 sides for all 17 NRL clubs in 2024, the Sharks are looking to make the leap from a finals team to title contenders. 

The Sharks are gaining a reputation as the NRL’s nearly team. For the past two years they have been regular-season heavyweights and finals pushovers.

They’ve lost three straight playoff matches across the two campaigns under Craig Fitzgibbon and as they prepare for 2024, they look like fielding a very similar side in Round 1.

Cronulla have replenished their roster following the retirements of the last few members of their 2016 title-winning team in recent seasons but among the new faces, only Dally M Medal winner Nicho Hynes has emerged as a genuine star. 

They have plenty of above-average players for their position such as Ronaldo Mulitalo, Will Kennedy, Toby Rudolf and Jesse Ramien, but they need another couple to make the leap into the upper echelons of the NRL otherwise they will be good again this season without being great.

The main difference this year is Braydon Trindall having a full off-season as Hynes’ preferred halves partner after he leapfrogged veteran Matt Moylan as the first-choice five-eighth late last season. 

Cronulla have again kept a settled roster but in many ways it might have been better to shuffle a few positions around with fresh blood rather than relying on the same players and expecting different results.


Who’s new? 

Billy Burns was picked up off the proverbial scrap heap after the Dragons let him go and he will provide depth in the back row. 

Young centre Michael Gabrael was acquired from Canterbury as part of the Connor Tracey release deal but he is viewed as a future prospect rather than someone who will put immediate pressure on incumbent duo Siosifa Talakai and Jesse Ramien. 

The Sharks made their biggest recruitment splash for several years in the off-season by blowing their rivals out of the water to snare Addin Fonua-Blake but the Warriors prop won’t suit up for them until 2025. 

Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon

Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Who’s gone? 

Wade Graham, the last remaining member of the 2016 premiership team, has retired. 


Moylan got an early release to link with Leigh in the UK after seeing the writing on the wall at Cronulla following Trindall taking his five-eighth’s jersey. 

Tracey was also allowed to break his deal after the Dogs made him a better offer with a greater opportunity to nail down a starting spot. 

Key spots to unlock

It’s going to be a lot more of the same at the Sharks with a familiar looking line-up set to kick off the season. 

Trindall should benefit from having a full summer to work on his playmaking combination with Hynes but Kennedy and hooker Blayke Brailey also need to take on a greater load in attack.

Kade Dykes, on the comeback trail after an ACL tear, could be an option for the No.6 jersey if Trindall doesn’t make the most of his chance or another rising star in Daniel Atkinson.

Too often last season, opposition defences targeted Hynes to reduce his time before making a decision and he looked rushed at times.


The Sharks have a few prospects out wide in Kayal Iro, Sam Stonestreet and Gabrael so moving Talakai back to the pack to accommodate younger legs could also be a consideration for Fitzgibbon.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Round 1 predicted team

1 Will Kennedy
2 Sione Katoa
3 Jesse Ramien
4 Siosifa Talakai
5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
6 Braydon Trindall
7 Nicho Hynes
8 Braden Hamlin-Uele
9 Blayke Brailey
10 Toby Rudolf
11 Briton Nikora
12 Teig Wilton
13 Dale Finucane
14 Cameron McInnes
15 Royce Hunt
16 Jack Williams
17 Oregon Kaufusi

Other squad members: Daniel Atkinson, Jayden Berrell, Kade Dykes, Tom Hazelton, Siteni Taukamo, Sam Stonestreet, Niwhai Puru, Michael Gabrael, Kayal Iro, Jesse Colquhoun, Billy Burns.