Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Photo by Sharks Media
Despite making the finals for the past six seasons, there is a lot of pressure on the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks this year, with head coach John Morris’ future at the club very much up in the air.
They will be keen to prove the doubters wrong with a strong season and could go a long way in doing so if they can win the following games.
ROUND 1 – ST.GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
To kick off their respective 2021 NRL campaigns, Sydney’s South Coast-based sides will face off in a fierce local derby.
Cronulla-Sutherland and St.George Illawarra supporters will turn up in droves to witness this matchup take place, with a capacity crowd hopefully allowed to attend.
Last time we witnessed a South Coast Derby for the ages, as the Sharks just managed to get a four-point win over their archrivals in a back and forth contest.
Neutral fans will be hoping for a similar display from both sides in this one.
ROUND 6 – NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
The Sharks and Knights had a very similar end to 2020, after just scraping into the top eight following a relatively poor run of form, both teams were eliminated in the first week of the finals.
Heading into 2021 expectations are certainly not high for either club, as many believe that they will be the two semi-finalists from last season that will miss out this time around.
Although they play early in the season, a victory for the winner would hopefully silence doubters temporarily, with the loser likely under a world of pressure.
— Cronulla Sharks (@Cronulla_Sharks) January 29, 2021
ROUND 8 – MELBOURNE STORM
Since the 2016 NRL Grand Final, Cronulla-Sutherland has for the most part been a bogey side for Melbourne, beating them in four of their last seven meetings.
In their most recent encounter, the Storm did manage a two-point win; however, the Sharks were arguably the better side.
Cronulla’s relative dominance against Melbourne is made all the more impressive when you consider the fact that during this period the Storm has won two premierships and two minor premierships.
The Sharks will be desperate to hold onto their status as the Melbourne Storm’s bogey side in this fixture.
ROUND 9 – PENRITH PANTHERS
When Cronulla and Penrith face off it is always an intriguing watch, with the historical aspect of both clubs joining the competition in 1967 and the plethora of players who have moved between the two teams.
Traditionally the Sharks have poached many a player from the Panthers, but the tide has turned, as Queensland representative Kurt Capewell and Scott Sorenson have left the Shire for pastures new at the foot of the mountains.
In 2018, these two sides treated us to a classic in the second week of the finals, with the Sharks winning 21-20, which was followed by both clubs getting the better of each other in two games decided by six points or less the following year.
Then of course in 2020 Penrith beat Cronulla in an attacking masterclass where a combined 80 points were scored.
Let’s hope we are treated to another memorable encounter in 2021.
ROUND 12 – GOLD COAST TITANS
The Sharks defeated the Titans quite comfortably on two occasions in 2020, giving the light blue and white faithful a reason to be optimistic about this game, even though the Gold Coast will probably be favourites.
Cronulla is tipped to miss the finals despite making the top eight last year, with the Titans favourites to make finals despite missing out in 2020, potentially giving this matchup serious postseason implications.