2023 NRL Season Preview: Cronulla Sharks

After being knocked out in straight sets during the 2022 season, can the Sharks finally get it together at the pointy end of the season?

Recap of last season

The Sharks got oh so close in 2022 finishing second on the ladder and hoping to go deep into the finals. That wasn't to be though with an extra-time loss to the Cowboys in the first week of finals, the good news, of course, was that they had the double chance.

Things couldn't have gone much worse in week two when the Sharks came up against the Bunnies. However the Rabbitohs got off to a perfect start having an 18-0 lead at half time, and while the Sharks came back in the second it wasn't enough, losing 38-12 and bowing out of finals.

Craig Fitzgibbon came into the head coaching job and brought some excitement to the team that hasn't been seen since the 2016 premiership season. Being one of the best sides last year will bring plenty of pressure but with a relatively stable side, the Sharks should do well in 2023.

How can they improve

While the Sharks had a great season overall winning plenty of matches it was the ones they lost that Fitzgibbon's men should focus on. They lost matches to big-name sides in the Storm, the Roosters and the Panthers and that was all before the finals.

The Sharks will not be able to go all the way unless they can find a way to beat the competitive sides. Winning against average teams gets you up the ladder, but winning against great teams wins you premierships.

The Sharks have lost both Aiden Tolman and Andrew Fifita will be a couple of massive losses. However, with some young guns coming through hopefully some of that extra energy allows them to improve on last season's efforts.

List changes

IN: Oregon Kaufusi (Eels)

OUT: Luke Metcalf (Warriors), Andrew Fifita (retired), Aiden Tolman (retired), Lachlan Miller (Knights)

Biggest Strength

The Sharks side is full of all-round superstars from one to thirteen. It was their all-round offensive game that made them so successful in 2022 with 930 regular season tackle busts, 80 more than the next best in the Roosters.

Siosifa Talakai and Ronaldo Mulitalo both finished in the top 15 in terms of metres run last season and will be key in increasing the Shark's scoring efforts.

Nicho Hynes, of course is the most important player for the Sharks, as he showed with a dominant 2022. Alongside Matt Moylan, the two combined to provide excellent leadership and give the fans plenty of hope. Hynes, of course also took home the Dally M last season.

Biggest weakness

The Sharks seemed unable to convert excellent runs into scores last season, especially against the stronger sides. Despite finishing second on the ladder the Sharks were seventh overall for tries scored and fourth for metres run.

If the Sharks are to stay at the top end of the ladder and go even deeper into finals in 2023 they will certainly need to address their scoring issues.

Part of the reason the Sharks did so well in 2022 was a relatively easy draw. However, in 2023 that won't be the case at all, the side needs to improve in the big matches.

Rising Star

Cronulla has the luxury of a pretty settled and experienced roster but there is one man with plenty of pedigree that could make a difference in 2023.

Kayal Iro played one game of first grade last season in round 24 against the Bulldogs but 2023 really could be a breakout year. He's the son of former Kiwi Kevin Iro and Nephew of Tony and the 22-year-old is right in the mix for a spot after having a great 2022 NSW Cup.

He finished as Player of the Year in the NSW Cup, scoring 14 tries along with 17 linebreaks for the Jets. He finished the year playing the World Cup for the Cook Islands. There is no doubt he's one to keep an eye on this season.


The Sharks are a hard team to predict. They had a great 2022 overall but their late-season stumbling momentum could easily be carried on into 2023.

Last season Fitzgibbon had it pretty easy without any real expectations, this year though the Sharks fans will be looking for some success come finals time.

The Sharks also have a difficult late season fun having to fly from Sydney to Perth to Sydney to Townsville all within a month, while all four games come against top-quality sides.

It's hard to see the Sharks doing as well as they did in 2022 simply due to not bringing any real new talent into the side. The top eight should be where the Sharks finish but a top-four finish is unlikely this time around with so many squads seemingly outpacing them in the offseason.

Ladder Position: 6th