The Halfback and Forth

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to my new series of opinion artcles from your one and only, Sladie. Each week, I’ll be spilling my thoughts on all things NRL. It won’t always be Wests Tigers related, but I’ll call things as I see them.

The Sharks are an absolute basket case. If you’re a Sharks fan, I feel for you. It’s gotten so bad you can almost forget what Ricky Stuart is doing to the Raiders, or what he did at the Eels, as the Sharks’ situation all but completely outdoes Ricky on sheer volume of incompetence.

The current situation that the Sharks find themselves in has been a few years coming, and starts with their player purchases and movements. It was fairly clear to me that the Sharks were trying to buy a culture in their purchases from Wests Tigers. Gibbs was still playing OK (at best) football when he signed, and Fifita was part of the package. But signing Ayshford last year was just bizzare. If you’d watched any Wests Tigers games in 2013, it was clear just how bloody ordinary he was. And yet they signed him for two years. They were trying to buy a culture, only problem is, they inherited what I consider to be the ‘bad seed’ elements of Wests Tigers culture from years gone by. And from what has happened at WT in years past, these players aren’t known for turning things around.

Not only have they signed poorly from other clubs, but that they have failed to retain their own young talent. It amazed me that the Sharks let young Michael Lichaa go. Despite not playing a heap of first grade yet, the kid is clearly up to it and will grow into a solid player over time. Not only this, but Valentine Holmes, who has enormous potential still isn’t re-signed! Along with guys like Arona, Sopoaga etc. There’s no point in having a ‘development/rebuilding’ year, like Wests did last year, unless you’re intending to keep the talent you blood. It just doesn’t make sense. And when you’re operating as a Caretaker coach, how do you even go about making recruitment decisions? Are Cronulla letting him?

No doubt that ASADA investigations hang over the Sharks like a black cloud, but the club’s management have a lot to answer for in their handling of this year. Peter Sharp was widely reported to have said that he did not want the first grade coaching job, and yet management appointed him anyway.  This sticks out to me as a huge mistake. I know the club is a bit hamstrung financially, but there are plenty of ex-first grade coaches who I am sure could’ve helped out for a year. Except Tim Sheens, because you know, he’d rather just sue the Tigers for his money. And let’s not get into the fact that the same people re-signed Flanagan despite his (alleged) involvement with the supplements saga. Why they didn’t wait until it was all over, I’ll never know.

When the players know your coach doesn’t want his job, it’s no wonder why they don’t put in 100% for the guy. Not only this, but Sharp has only just this week sacked a bunch of underperforming Ayshford’s. I mean, players.

Say what you will about Paul Gallen on field, but I believe his Triple M interview let on a lot more than some people think. To me, it suggested that Gallen had approached club management about the situation, and they ignored his plea. If you’re a Sharks fan, that is hugely concerning. It basically says ‘Hey, we’re willing to write off this year’, which in the world of professional sport is a big, big no no.

The result in the players has been no more evident than the happenings of this weekend to Todd Carney. It’s now very apparent that whatever Flanagan was doing with Carney was working, and kept him in line. Carney was instrumental in the Sharks’ win on Friday night, and is a huge part of their ability to score points. And as such, with Carney gone (rightly or wrongly) the Sharks are without a recognised playmaker.

Ironically, the situation that the Sharks are in reminds me of how I felt about the Tigers at the end of 2012. I can’t, for now anyway, see how things are going to get better for them. The youth of the club are in limbo, the current team leaves a lot to be desired and the coach clearly is not suitable for the role,. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee Flanagan will be cleared by 2015 with the rate ASADA is progressing at.

So I’ll finish with this. It must suck to be a Sharks fan right now. And unfortunately, it’s not going to change any time soon.