When it comes to the position of centre, any discussions as to ‘best of’ Sharks teams usually starts and finishes with the two Cronulla immortals in Steve Rogers and Andrew Ettingshausen.
The pair was dominant in their respective eras and were justifiably named in the Sharks Team of the Half Century.
But what of the last decade? Who have been the centres to make a significant contribution and to leave their mark on the NRL and the Cronulla club?
In continuing to provide a reminder of the players to represent the Sharks with distinction since 2010, we’ve come up with a few of the leading centres from the past 10 years.
Was it the pair who worked in tandem in helping the Sharks claim their maiden Grand Final success in 2016, or was it a player in a less-than competitive team who toiled away in challenging circumstances and deserves recognition?
So far, we’ve provided ‘tip sheets’ on the best fullbacks and wingers over the last 10 years in asking you to select a Team of the Decade, a Sharks squad 1-17 which you believe to be the best from 2010 to the currently suspended 2020 season. Now we remind you of some of the centres to carry the Cronulla colours with pride during the last decade.
We are giving Sharks fans the chance to have your say in letting us know who your favourites are from the past 10 years.
Today we look at some of the more notable names to play in the centres for the Sharks over the past 10 seasons. Who are your picks in the Sharks Team of the Decade – 2010-2020?
The decade began with Ben Pomeroy and Tigers recruit Dean Collis as the Sharks centre pairing, with Pomeroy a mainstay of the team since coming into the top grade in 2006.
Strong as a bull, Pomeroy struck fear into plenty of opponents with his physicality in a career which would stretch 158 NRL games and eight seasons.
It was also 2010 when a teenage Ricky Leutele would play one game for the Sharks in the top grade in what was a pointer of things to come.
Early in the decade Matt Wright arrived from the Panthers and shared some time in the centres with the likes of Collis, Leutele, Jonathan Wright and Nathan Stapleton, while the return of local boy Colin Best saw him play both centre and wing in 2011 and 2012.
Blake Ayshford arrived in 2014, with Leutele beginning to cement his place, then in 2015 the Sharks secured the services of youngster Jack Bird, the Wollongong product playing the majority of his debut season at five eighth before shifting out wide and into the centre position in 2016.
Kiwi international Gerard Beale performed strongly in partnering Leutele in the centres for much of ’15, with the Bird shift the following year seeing him push out onto a wing during the premiership-winning season of 2016.
In Leutele, Bird and Beale, Cronulla had a trio of centres who would play a major role in the Sharks claiming that maiden NRL title. Who can forget Bird’s toughness in the decider against Melbourne, playing more than half a game with a damaged elbow, and Leutele will forever be remembered for making that game-ending tackle when the closing moments of the Grand Final are repeated.
Bird and Leutele continued through 2017 before Bird’s departure to Brisbane in 2018, with high profile recruit Josh Dugan filling the void. Injury interrupted Dugan’s first season in the Shire, however his 23 games in 2019, in a variety of positions, provided a good indication of his ability.
An emerging talent in Jesse Ramien enjoyed a taste of the NRL in the final game of 2017, then there was no stopping him in 2018 in a breakthrough season for the young indigenous star, while the versatile Kurt Capewell also saw some game time in the centres in 2017-18 and ’19.
A new star would then shine brightly last year with teenager Bronson Xerri producing some amazing attacking highlights in his first season in the NRL.
Guiding Xerri and helping to fast-track his NRL learning curve was the experienced Josh Morris, the NSW and Australian rep proving to be much more than just a mentor in scoring 15 tries in 23 appearances in a standout season in Sharks colours.
We then looked forward to 2020 with Xerri, Ramien, Dugan and Morris in the frame to fill the centre positions, before the Morris departure to the Roosters and the unfortunate season shut down.
Plenty to choose from, lots of quality amongst the candidates. Which two are your picks for the centres in the Sharks Team of the Decade?
Download the Sharks Team of the Decade template here and start filling it out today - once you've finished your squad, upload a picture to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tag our pages plus use the hashtag #UpUp - or email your sheet to [email protected]