In the lead up to the 2014 VB NSW Cup season, we will shine the spotlight on all 13 competing teams to see how they are shaping up for the year ahead.
Today we take a look at the Cronulla Sharks.
Head Coach: Tony Herman
Home Ground: Remondis Stadium
Year Entered Competition: 1967
2013 Result: Minor Premiers & Premiers (19 wins, 1 draw and 4 losses)
2014 Key Signings: Eric Grothe Jnr (retirement), Daniel Holdsworth (Hull), Jacob Gagan (Sea Eagles) & Tinarau Arona (Roosters).
After sweeping all before them in the 2013 VB NSW Cup, the Cronulla Sharks have set an extremely high bar for themselves as they look to defend their title in 2014.
The Sharks set all sorts of records on their way to a comprehensive 36-8 Grand Final victory over the Windsor Wolves at ANZ Stadium last October, however the club have lost a number of their Premiership winning personnel over the off season including the likes of Tyrone Peachey (Panthers), Chad Townsend (Warriors), Stewart Mills (Broncos) and Mark Taufua (retired) just to name a few.
Coach Tony Herman knows that replacing that calibre of talent won’t be easy but is quietly confident that the club has the depth to do so.
“Losing those guys (above mentioned players) has certainly presented its challenges for us,” Herman said.
“But the club has picked up some quality players like Jacob Gagan, Eric Grothe Jnr and Daniel Holdsworth, just to name a few, and if these guys aren’t required in first grade, they along with returning players like Junior Roqica, Tim Robinson, Tupou Sopoaga, Pat Politoni and Penani Manumalealii should see us holding our own.”
In addition to some familiar names, Sharks fans will also be able to witness the development of several Holden Cup graduates in 2014 with high hopes for a number of the clubs young stars.
“I have been particularly pleased with the way Sione Masima, Mick Morris, Scott Sorenson and Reece Davidson (Son of Les) has been going, so if they can transfer their training efforts into the game they should perform very well at this level.”
In addition to a reasonably high rate of player turnover during the off season, the Sharks like many clubs have gone through a somewhat disjointed off season due to representative commitments and as a result have probably not advanced their pre-season to the point that they would like.
“We had a long season having made the Grand Final, and then we had a number of players off overseas representing various countries at the World Cup so it has definitely been different to previous years with a large number of our guys needing some time off… but the workload and intensity has really started to pick up of late.”
Another great positive for Sharks fans in 2014 is the fact that, unlike in previous seasons, all 12 of the clubs home games will be played at Remondis Stadium, with many of them preceding Sharks NRL fixtures.
And in terms of what is in store for fans this season, Coach Herman simply had this to say.
“It’s a very tough competition that is getting harder each year but we would like to think that we are a top eight contender and then we will see what happens from there.”
The Cronulla Sharks will play trials against the Sea Eagles and Tigers in February prior to kicking off their 2014 VB NSW Cup campaign with an away trip to Belmore Sports Ground to face the Bulldogs on March 8.