Round 1 Predicted Teams – Sharks: Fullback depth takes double hit with Miller gone, young gun tearing ACL

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As part of a series profiling the expected Round 1 sides for all 17 NRL clubs in 2023, the Sharks are looking to continue their rise from top-four surprise packets to title contenders.

When your team finishes second, you shouldn’t need to do much tinkering with your roster.

But when they get bounced in back-to-back finals defeats, the team is still a long way from being assured of premiership contention.

Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon has kept the faith with the squad from last season as the club looks to add a second premiership to its trophy cabinet.

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Banking on the continued rise of their young core of players led by Dally M Medal winning halfback Nicho Hynes, the Sharks should be one of the teams to beat in 2023.

Nicho Hynes, Dally M Winner. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Who’s new? 

Not a lot. They identified Eels forward Oregon Kaufusi early in the recruitment process before last season started and haven’t felt the need to import any other new talent. They already have a stacked list of forwards for their pack and bench so Kaufusi is no guarantee to be a certain starter each week.

Who’s gone? 

Young halfback Luke Metcalf was offered a better deal at the Warriors so with Hynes, Matt Moylan and Braydon Trindall blocking his chances at Cronulla, it was no surprise that he opted for a change. 

Apart from the retirements of veteran props Andrew Fifita and Aiden Tolman, the roster is unchanged, perhaps the most stable squad in the NRL.

Lachlan Miller was a late departure in the pre-season, inking a three-year deal with Newcastle after getting a release.

Young gun Kade Dykes will also be gone for 2023 after suffering a serious knee injury at training but is under contract for next season and will be back then.

The 21-year-old local junior ruptured his ACL during a field session while in camp with the NRL squad in Wollongong on Tuesday and will now meet with surgeons in the coming days to determine the next course of action.

After making two NRL appearances last year, the son of club legend Adam Dykes was in line to be Will Kennedy’s back-up at fullback, particularly after Lachlan Miller was granted a release by the club to take up a three-year deal with Newcastle on the day Kade suffered his injury.

It was also Dykes’ 21st birthday so not one he will remember fondly.

Utility back Connor Tracey and winger Ronaldo Mulitalo are other options for the No.1 jersey if Kennedy is out while halves duo Matt Moylan and Nicho Hynes have experience in the positition, which would open the door for Brayden Trindall to slot into the starting side as a playmaker.

Key spots to unlock 

Fitzgibbon will have few issues when coming up with his Round 1 teamsheet with Kaufusi likely to slot in as a bench forward, an impact role he filled regularly at Parramatta.

Samoan prop Royce Hunt, one of the most improved players in the NRL, could be squeezed out of the middle-forward rotation when the Sharks are at full strength. 

With the likes of Hunt, Connor Tracey, Jack Williams and Matt Ikuvalu likely to be outside the game-day squad, the Sharks are swimming in depth.

Round 1 predicted team

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

Other squad members: Kade Dykes (injured), Connor Tracey, Jack Williams, Royce Hunt, Jayden Berrell, Jesse Colquhoun, Kayal Iro, Matt Ikuvalu, Mawene Hiroti, Siteni Taukamo, Tom Hazelton. 

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