By Vinh Tran
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks RLFC
In 2014, the Sharks Academy Talent Squads had a very successful winter program. During the 12 week program we were able to identify and develop over 100 local juniors players and give them the experience to train and play under the Cronulla Sharks banner.
Induction was the 30th of June and here we explained to all the players and their parents what we hoped to achieve with the program. The fundamental aim of the program was to develop the core skills of all players involved. We wanted to provide them with a new and challenging environment for training and to give them honour and pride to play in the black, white and blue of the Sharks.
Wednesday 2nd July
13s and 14s – Gala Day (hosted by Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)
A terrific day for the club and the teams with both our 13s and 14s going through the pool stage and to the finals undefeated. In the 13s final we came up a physical Penrith Panthers team who proved to strong but all the players put in a great effort. The 14s final saw us take on a big and tough Parramatta side and it was tight tussle but Parramatta held on for a narrow victory.
17s – Hunter Festival of Sport – 17s Development Squad Challenge
This gala day was hosted by the Newcastle Knights and saw our 17s matched up with 4 tough sides from across NSW. After a long drive we came up against a tough Manly side who we drew with. This was followed by a comprehensive win over Illawarra. The next match was against the home side, Newcastle and we were able to record a terrific victory in what was the match of tournament. The team had a quick turn-around for their match against Central Coast and fatigue became a factor in the close loss.
Wednesday 9th July
V Balmain Tigers @ Remondis Stadium
We hosted the Balmain Tigers in front of a big home crowd. It was another great day for the club with us being able to send all 4 Balmain sides home winless. 13s had a comprehensive win and the 14s were also able to record a victory. De La Salle Caringbah 16s took on the Balmain 15s side and played out an entertaining match and also emerged victorious. Our 17s were ruthless and capped off a great day with a big win.
15s Gala Day – Central Coast
Our 15s had their first hit out at a gala day played out of Morry Breen Oval in Wyong. Some strong performances across the park saw us record 2 wins, a draw and a loss.
Wednesday 16th July
15s v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
17s v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
A freezing cold night at Killara Reserve, Milperra saw our 15s and 17s take on the Bulldogs. Both teams were able to record fantastic wins against strong opposition. This was a great preview of some of the prospects for our 2015 Harold Matthews and SG Ball teams and they all made solid auditions.
Thursday 24th July
V Wests @ Campbelltown Stadium
All four of our teams travelled to out west to take on Western Suburbs in our final academy matches. It was a mixed bag of results. Our 13s played well but were run down late in the match in close loss. Our 14s found themselves down 20-0 quickly but showed great resolve to comeback to make it 20-18. The 15s were our shining light with a very classy win over a good team. The 17s were down on troops but showed real character against a very well drilled and talented West/Balmain side. They couldn’t match their firepower in the end.
The coaches and support staff dedicated a huge amount of time and work into their teams and their efforts were greatly appreciated. Thanks also to current players John Morris and Daniel Holdsworth who attended numerous training sessions to lend their expertise to all the teams. Also thank you to our Academy sponsor, Crust Pizza Cronulla who provided over 50 large pizzas for the Academy function.
During the program we were able to see fantastic growth in all the players’ skill and attitude and this was reflected with some tremendous on-field performances. The enthusiasm shown by all the players and staff as soon as they put the Sharks colours from day one was great. Hopefully these players and coaches will go back to their local clubs and become leaders and take what they’ve learnt with us and continue to move forward and develop. From what we have seen in the 2014 program we have an abundance of local talent in our junior league and we will continue to foster this talent and put keep them on the pathway to becoming an NRL player for the Cronulla Sharks.