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Sharks Team of the Decade – 2010-2020 – Backrowers

In the times when rugby league was played somewhat differently to what it is today, locks and second rowers were almost one and the same, with just a different number on their backs.

Modern day tactics and the latest coaching trends has deviated slightly, with the second rowers shifting a little wider of the ruck and the lock playing the role of a middle forward.

As essential ingredients of a successful team the equation of late has been to combine strike players with a measure of speed and skill on the edge and a workhorse as lock in the middle.

And the Sharks have had their share of quality players in both roles.

Recently retired skipper Paul Gallen became the benchmark for modern lock forwards, while the Sharks have also enjoyed a string of quality back rowers with speed, size and skill during the past decade.

In continuing to provide a reminder of the players to represent the Sharks since 2010, we’ll remind you of a few of the most prominent locks and second rowers from the last decade.

We had some top-quality players in those positions in the premiership-winning year of 2016, however was there a player or two in perhaps an underperforming team who caught the eye and deserves consideration?

We’ve provided ‘tip sheets’ on the best outside backs and halves 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 best back rowers to carry the hopes and dreams of the Cronulla club during the last 10 years.

Who are your picks in the back row in the Sharks Team of the Decade – 2010-2020?

 

Locks and second rowers

At lock, Paul Gallen has obviously dominated the position and the Sharks number 13 jersey for most of the decade, with a string of quality back-ups stepping in when the long-time skipper was unavailable through injury or suspension.

A career beginning in 2001, Gallen would play 349 top grade games for the Sharks, 32 Tests for Australia and 24 Origin matches for NSW in an illustrious career. He was also the man to lift the NRL trophy as the captain of the first premiership-winning Sharks side.

Of the others to play the lock forward position, Chris Heighington did a more than capable job of filling in when required over a number of years at the club, as did the reliable Jayson Bukuya.

Last year it was emerging star Jack Williams who would play more and more minutes as Gallen’s career wound down, while back in 2013 Tyrone Peachey saw limited game time in the role.

Peachey would shift clubs soon after and has since enjoyed some success in a variety of positions at both the Panthers and now Titans.

And let’s not forget Kiwi international Jeremy Smith, a tough customer, or Anthony Tupou, a skilful back rower who like Smith was equally as comfortable as a lock or edge second rower.

In as far as the second-row candidates go, many might forget Tyson Frizell began his career as a Shark, playing just two top grade games in 2011 and another 10 in 2012 before moving on, with the decade kicking off with Tupou and Smith integral members of the Cronulla side.

The Sharks would make a major signing ahead of the 2011 season, Wade Graham joining the club from the Penrith Panthers, many believing he was acquired to play in the halves.

Coach Shane Flanagan had other ideas, Graham moved into the back row, and the rest is history, the 2020 Sharks captain going on to play 189 NRL games at the club, Test matches for Australia and State of Origin’s for NSW.

In 2013 the Sharks squad was further strengthened by the inclusion of another ex-Panther in Luke Lewis, with his class immediately shining through.

The former Penrith pair would form a lethal partnership which included the premiership victory of 2016, Lewis named the Clive Churchill medallist in the Grand Final. Lewis would retire at the end of the 2018 season.

And with that retirement came the emergence of Briton Nikora, a player born in New Zealand, raised on the Gold Coast and developed since age 17 in the Sharks system.

Add to the mix the versatile Kurt Capewell and Joseph Paulo, Bukuya who has given 12 years of service to the Cronulla club and local boy Scott Sorensen and the Sharks have enjoyed a decade with plenty of quality players covering the crucial lock and second row positions.

Who fills the 11, 12 and 13 jerseys in your 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].