The NRL’s contract deadline has passed, and with the Finals over, we can now officially declare the start of the silly season in the NRL. We will be providing sanity amidst the gossip and conjecture with the relaunch of Smart Signings. Our focus will be on dissecting where clubs are weak, what they need to improve and where they might find it. Expect statistical analysis, player profiles and insights into realistic options available to the clubs. However, do not anticipate any rumors.
Cronulla may have been doomed in 2023 by their overachievement in the regular season of 2022 under Craig Fitzgibbon’s leadership. Their ability to perform well against weaker teams was overshadowed when they faced stronger opponents in 2023. Moving into 2024, the focus will be on whether they can evolve to compete against stronger opposition. Their recruitment strategy heavily emphasizes team cohesion and stability, with very few changes made to the squad since Fitzgibbon took charge.
The Sharks have been one of the most settled teams in the competition, with minimal player turnover. While this reflects a lack of significant injuries, it also highlights the team’s commitment to consistency. The challenge lies in competing against top teams in crucial games. Despite having strong offensive and defensive statistics, the Sharks have struggled in key moments during finals matches. Their reluctance to make big signings is also influenced by cap constraints and the desire to keep the current squad intact.
The departure of key players such as Wade Graham has created an opportunity for the Sharks to consider new signings, especially in the utility department. Their lack of a genuine utility player on the bench puts pressure on certain team members and limits flexibility during games. Players like Tyrone Peachey and Kodi Nikorima could potentially fill this role and provide valuable options on the bench for the Sharks. Overall, the team’s focus on maintaining cohesion and stability while addressing key shortcomings will be critical as they prepare for the upcoming season.