Round 1 Predicted Teams – Sharks: Swimming in depth, can Fitzgibbon lift most settled NRL roster from good to great?

    As part of a daily 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.

    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, Matt Ikuvalu and Lachie Miller 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
    Interchange
    14 Braydon Trindall
    15 Cameron McInnes
    16 Teig Wilton
    17 Oregon Kaufusi

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

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