The Sharks in 2013 – Front rowers
Sunday 3 February 2013 12:27 PM
Very rarely has a rugby league team, whether in the current era or in years past, been successful without significant contributions from their big men.
The front rowers are required to do the hard yards and in simple terms to ruck the ball out of their own defensive end, in an attempt to provide the field position for the skill players to take over and display their attacking ability.
Fortunately for coach Shane Flanagan, the Sharks appear well stocked for the type of players who will be more than capable of laying the platform his team will be looking for.
Andrew Fifita, after being chosen to represent the Indigenous All Stars prior to the 2012 season, gained tremendous confidence from the rep call up and was touted as a player of immense promise. Fifita delivered on that potential playing 22 of 25 games last year in leading the forward for the Sharks pack.
Fifita returns a year older and a fair bit wiser, while with just a few short weeks until the start of the season is possibly as fit as he has been at any time in his NRL career, having dropped his playing weight in the off-season from 120kgs down to 116. Flanagan has been tipping it to anyone asking the question that if his progress continues through the trials and early rounds that Fifita is set to make a transition from the interchange bench into the Sharks starting side.
As for the other options available, while Bryce Gibbs has struggled through an interrupted off-season due to shoulder and foot injuries, when fully fit the talents of the former Tiger demands game time in the front row, while Ben Ross and Mark Taufua, two experienced campaigners, both provided the Sharks with plenty of muscle last year and can be expected to deliver more of the same in 2013.
The smoky in the pack so to speak for Flanagan could well be Jon Green, a member of the Dragons premiership winning side in 2010 and a player who has impressed all with his attitude and effort during the pre-season. Look for Green to play more than the six games he ran out for in the NRL in 2012.
In Rodney Coates the Sharks have a young local prop they have high hopes for and is someone with the ability to develop into an NRL option as the season progresses, while Sam Tagataese is equally adept in the middle of the park as a prop, as he is running a little wider as a back rower. His role may be determined by the form of the back rowers as much as it is by what is happening with the front rowers in the squad.
And while he may not want to hear it, Paul Gallen can expect to be pushed into the prop position at various stages throughout the year and new recruit Chris Heighington, although like Gallen primarily a second row-lock, could also fill a void in the front row should the situation call for it.
NRL games – 175
Tries - 3
NRL games – 61
Tries - 13
NRL games – 154
Tries – 7
NRL games – 86
Tries - 6
NRL games – 63
Tries – 2
NRL games – 76
Tries – 8
Yet to play NRL