The Sharks joined Leicester City, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Cubs as 2016’s Cinderella sports stories. They will face some very stiff opposition as they look to repeat in 2017 as the loss of Michael Ennis and Ben Barba are significant while their main rivals like the Storm, Cowboys, Raiders, Broncos and Panthers all improved or stayed the same on paper. The Sharks will also be hard pressed to repeat that 72% win percentage in games decided by 6 or fewer points.
One thing you could count on during Sharks games: there would be penalties. The average Sharks game had 15.5 penalties, just behind the Raiders who had 15.71.
The Sharks had the second worst discipline record in the NRL but they weren’t really punished for it because they were also awarded the second highest number of penalties. The Sharks’ opponents conceding penalties to them was nothing new as they topped this category in 2015 with 186 penalties awarded. But in 2015 they only committed 153 penalties for a net penalties of +33 compared to this season’s -4.
The Sharks weren’t one of the best regular season teams to go on and win a championship, they also weren’t the worst, that’s definitely the 2005 Tigers, but I wondered where they might rank in Pythagorean predictions compared to other champions in the 24-game era. Here’s the list, worst to first:
The 2016 Sharks were actually better than the 2015 Cowboys but they are both near the bottom of the list. We haven’t had a repeat champion in this era with the Storm in 2007/08 being the only team to go to back to back Grand Finals (they’d go back and win again in 2009, though obviously the 2007 and 2009 titles no longer exist). The 2016 Sharks are nothing like the 2007 Storm so there’s not a strong chance they make it back to another Grand Final, let alone win it.
The big loss is Michael Ennis whose contributions to the Grand Final run can’t be underestimated. I have no idea who will end up at hooker: Mortimer, Cherrington, Brailey or even James Segeyaro. I’m throwing my hands up there. Ben Barba will sit out almost half the season suspended giving Valentine Holmes a shot at fullback. There’s also a few options for the interchange forward spots.
2016 Positional Minute Splits
The Sharks used Gerard Beale or Ricky Leutele from the interchange bench eight times last season and in all three finals matches. It hardly impacts the minutes of the centres and wings because they or Jack Bird normally shifted into the forwards. Shane Flanagan might be a Grand Final winning coach but I maintain I don’t see the point, Beale and Leutele scored at a 0.5 PPM when they came off the bench which isn’t much impact. Just pick an extra forward. That extra forward might be more of a necessity this season as I can’t see either Mortimer or Cherrington being an 80 minute hooker, although NRL.com has Mortimer has the hooker with no bench cover.
Things could get messy for the defending champs very quickly if they have a few injuries, they look paper thin everywhere except the middle forwards.
Average Fantasy Points Allowed Per Position
The Sharks have been a hard team to score against for the past two seasons.
Key Fantasy Changes
Ben Barba’s indiscretions will allow Valentine Holmes to establish himself as the Sharks’ new fullback. He’s probably good enough to nail down the spot. There’s also the not so insignificant matter of replacing Michael Ennis at hooker.