This article was first written for and published by The Daily Telegraph.
The Cronulla Sharks boast several NRL Supercoach guns such as Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita and James Maloney yet the team still has a number of question marks regarding its make-up and therefore coaches need to consider the inclusion of its guns in initial Supercoach squads.
The Sharks will field a largely new spine with new halves James Maloney (Sydney Roosters) and Chad Townsend (New Zealand Warriors) along with a new fullback which will most likely be Jack Bird or Valentine Holmes.
James Maloney is a star recruit but is priced at a premium and will take time to gel with his new team mates. Paul Gallen is 35 years old this season and injury concerns along with State Of Origin duties make him a Supercoach dilemma. Andrew Fifita is a Supercoach enigma who can be equally devastating on the field as he can be to the aspirations of Supercoach players who have to deal with his indiscretions.
Undoubtedly they will all figure in Supercoach calculations during the season but are all likely to fall in price therefore a wait and see approach might be the best strategy.
Valentine Holmes may prove to be the value player if he lands the Fullback role for the Sharks.
Full analysis below:
INS: James Maloney (Sharks), Chad Townsend (Warriors), Joseph Paulo (Eels), Jesse Sene-Lafao (Sea Eagles), Matt Mcllwrick (Roosters), Kurt Capewell (Ipswich Jets), Josh Cleeland (Ipswich Jets), Jordan Drew (Broncos).
OUTS: Michael Gordon (Eels), Jeff Robson (Warriors), Anthony Tupou (Wakefield), Tinirau Arona (Sharks), Blake Ayshford (Warriors) Kyle Stanley (Retired), Josh Add-Carr (Tigers)
PREDICTED BEST 17
Jack Bird, Valentine Holmes, Gerard Beale, Ricky Leutele, Sosaia Feki, James Maloney, Chad Townsend, Sam Tagataese, Michael Ennis, Andrew Fifita, Luke Lewis, Wade Graham, Paul Gallen (c) Interchange: Chris Heighington, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Ben Barba, Jason Bukuya.
The Sharks star recruit James ‘BBQ’ Maloney is an astute signing for the Sharks and will bring added experience and class to the backline. The Chad Townsend swap for Jeff Robson with the Warriors also makes the Sharks halves pairing appear stronger.
The likely pairing in the halves however raises a number of questions around the composition of the Sharks particularly in the full back position and where to play Jack Bird and Ben Barba. Jack Bird was Dally M rookie of the year in 2015 and will move from the five-eighth position where he starred for the Sharks in 2015 to accommodate James Maloney.
Bird has indicated that full back is his desired position for 2016 and will most likely have first opportunity at it. However the Sharks have other options. Ben Barba is a former Dally M winner and if in top form would have a mortgage on the position. However Barba’s past few seasons have been very disappointing and whilst he is likely to be in the 17 his role is not certain. In 2015 he largely played a role from the bench but he will face competition from another utility player in Fa’amanu Brown who is returning from injury.
Further complicating matters is Valentine Holmes who played some full back in 2015 and looks very suited to the position. Holmes is a serious contender for the full back position but with Bird in the mix he may have to be content to remain on the wing where he is a proven finisher.
The centre position is one that lacks depth for the Sharks and Jack Bird may find himself in that position if the move to Fullback is not a success or if Barba or Holmes are given an opportunity in the role.
The Sharks possess a lot of talent but a largely new spine with a new halves pairing and a new fullback will need some pre-season answers before the team composition is fully settled and Supercoach squad inclusions finalised.
Paul Gallen ($499,500)
Paul Gallen priced at $499,500 is the second most expensive NRL Supercoach 2016 launch player. His ability to do endless hit ups, tackle like a machine, gain metres and offload is beyond question. He is a proven NRL Supercoach gun and in 2015 played 16 games averaging 79 Supercoach points. If in your Supercoach squad he is a safe Captain choice week in week out, as his scores are largely consistent, almost guaranteeing 80 points a game. Paul Gallen reportedly has undergone pre- season training prior to Christmas for the first time in nearly a decade so you would expect him rearing to go in 2016.
There are a few question marks however that surround Paul Gallen. He has been injury prone in past seasons and at 35 injury concerns linger. There is enough depth in the Shark’s forwards to allow Flanagan the option to manage Gallen’s minutes on the field and maximise his contribution over the entire season. Furthermore he will be unavailable for the State Of the Origin series where he misses the bye rounds and would have to back up in all 3 weeks following State Of Origin. Gallen’s talent and willingness is work is undoubted however at $499,500 some of these questions raise doubt on whether he is a must have in initial NRL Supercoach squads.
Andrew Fifita ($464,000)
What do you do with a player like Andrew Fifita? Fifita is a devastating player on his day able to make metres, break takes, carry or brush of defenders, offload and score tries. In 2015 he averaged 73.38 Supercoach points in his 16 games played yet he ruined his season with suspension and controversy. At $464,000 he is priced as the seventh most expensive Supercoach player on 2016 launch and at his best he is a super gun yet questions remain in whether he should be considered in initial Supercoach squads.
As mentioned above Fifita is prone to controversy. Any indiscretion will mean further suspension and thus he comes with risk. He is also prone to giving away penalties and mistakes which often eat away his points. Paul Gallen also seems to reduce the points that would be available for Fifita taking many of his hit ups. At $464,000 he is priced at premium and is most likely to fall in value as he builds to full fitness. Fifita is a must have however if Paul Gallen is injured or if not selected for State of Origin during the absence of Paul Gallen.
James Maloney ($418,900)
James Maloney is the Sharks 2016 star recruit and is a proven Supercoach performer. At the Roosters he shared play maker responsibilities with Michael Pierce and he is set to dominate this responsibility at the Sharks. In addition he is a gun goal kicker. Yet you should wait to include James Maloney in your teams for a number of reasons.
In 2015 he averaged 66.25 points in his 24 games for the Roosters. However those impressive points were amassed in a star studded Roosters backline. The Sharks backline is not as potent and it will take some time before Maloney gels with his new backline which includes a new halfback in Chad Townsend and a new fullback which will be most likely Jack Bird or Valentine Holmes.
Maloney will be an astute purchase when his price drops and as he increases cohesiveness with his new team mates.
Valentine Holmes ($291,400)
If Valentine Holmes lands the Fullback position he will prove to be great value for NRL Supercoach squads. Blessed with explosive speed he would be a devastating open field runner and would make the position his own. Similar to Tuivasa-Sheck, Holmes has been blooded into the NRL on the wing even though his preferred position is Fullback. Also similar to Tuivasa-Sheck he will have the masterful James Maloney providing him line break and try scoring opportunities that would make him potentially one of the buys of the season.
Shark’s coach Flanagan however has to accommodate Jack Bird in the Shark’s backline so it’s a wait and see on Holmes who hopefully lands the Fullback position from Round 1.
Jacob Gagan ($149,200)
Jacob Gagan is a talented wing with strength and abundant speed. He made his debut for the Sharks in 2014 and scored 5 tries in just 7 appearances. His 2015 however was curtailed through injury setbacks but he is ready for the 2016 season.
The Sharks lack depth in the centres and on the wing and Gagan could very likely find himself as a candidate for a First Grade position. His chances would increase considerably if Valentine Holmes lands the fullback role.
NO GO ZONE
Chris Heighington ($287,900)
Chris Heighington is nearing the end of his career and will face stiff completion for minutes in a depth filled Sharks pack. He is awkwardly priced at $287,900 and considered a No Go Zone from a Supercoach perspective.
The Sharks have recruited Ipswich Jets second rower Kurt Capewell who won the 2015 NRL State Championship. Capewell is a very talented 22 year old NRL rookie who could make his mark around Origin time and is available in dual second row and centre/wing positions.
Former Junior Kangaroo Jordan Drew is another interesting Shark signing who has played one game for the Brisbane Broncos in 2013 scoring a try on debut against the Dragons. The centre position does not have as much depth for the Sharks and Drew could find a starting spot if the Sharks suffer any injury problems.
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