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Cronulla did all the hard work in the regular before stumbling in the final to crash out in straight sets under Craig Fitzgibbon's first season in charge of the club.

It was a disappointing finish to a promising year from the men from the shire, who will be looking to make amends in 2023. reflects on some key moments for the Sharks in 2022 and looks at how things are in place to remain a finals team next season.

Taking confidence

The Sharks produced their finest defensive effort since 1999 during this year's regular season, conceding just 15.2 points per game. 

That figure was better than their 2016 premiership-winning year, which might make for tough reading considering they knocked themselves out of the finals by conceding 62 points in two matches.

But let's focus on the positives - two games shouldn't define the year they had defensively - and should be a base to work with in 2023. 

Only the Panthers and Cowboys conceded fewer points in 24 games. Cronulla's attack also improved, up by 54 points in total from their 2021 campaign when they missed the finals. 

Fitzgibbon on 'enjoyable' season

Fitzy's first impression

The rookie coach has only required a season to show his credentials in the NRL after years of being an assistant at the Roosters. 

What made Fitzgibbon successful in 2022 was his ability to use the players already at the club, improve them, while bringing in the likes of Nicho Hynes, Dale Finucane and Cameron McInnes to complement the rest. 

His honesty throughout the season was also on show and it will be interesting to watch in 2023 after he highlighted some areas needed for improvement after their finals departure.

Dally M history-maker

One man - Nicholas Hynes.

The Sharks recruit arrived to Cronulla with some expectation after showing glimpses of his talent during a season with the Storm, but no way both parties would've expected him to fit in so easily to then go on and claim one of rugby league's highest honour.

Hynes shattered the Dally M medal record with a 38-point haul - the best in the 43-year history of the awards.

He conjured up the most line break assists with 29 for the season while he stepped up to the plate with four field goals to show his worth under pressure.

Like the rest of the team, Hynes will be disappointed with his finish to the season but you couldn't have scripted a better personal year overall for the Indigenous All Stars representative.

2022 Dally M Player of the Year - Nicho Hynes

Moylan's fitness holds strong

Behind every star halfback is a partner right beside him and Matt Moylan's 2022 season allowed Hynes to play to his strengths purely by remaining on the field. 

After a luckless run of injuries in previous years it was a huge positive to see Moylan rack up 24 of a possible 26 games in 2022 for the club - his best efforts since first arriving to the Sharks in 2018. 

Moylan racked up 12 try assists to go with Hynes' 21 for the season while he added to his kicking game with 72.63 metres per game - a career-high for the Sharks veteran.

After signing a two-year contract extension, Moylan will want to finish his final years off in style at the Sharks and will play another pivotal role for the side in 2023.

Up Up Cronulla is back

After two years playing away the sight of PointsBet Stadium packed each week with fans in black, white and blue made for a perfect winter in Cronulla. 

Despite the capacity at the venue limited due to construction, the Sharks did well to immediately turn it back into a fortress, winning nine of 11 games. 

With several venues expected to be out for use in 2023 due to the women's FIFA World Cup, the Sharks will be one team with an upper hand with PointsBet Stadium not expected to be one of them.

Power personified: Fifita announces his retirement

Replacing two veterans

The retirements of Aiden Tolman and Andrew Fifita will leave a big hole in the experience department next season despite the Sharks having the oldest squad on paper in 2022. 

The Sharks are used to playing with a more experienced squad than other NRL teams for close to a decade and shouldn't lose too much in this space despite the pair's exits. 

Sharks captain Wade Graham is yet to put pen to paper on a new deal for 2023 but is one player they club will turn to for leadership. 

The likes of Dale Finucane and Cameron McInnes will also take on more responsibility next year after making a strong impression each in their maiden seasons at the club.

Kiwi star's re-signing crucial

The Sharks did well to starve off rivals and re-sign Briton Nikora to a three-year contract extension, which now sets the second row spot up for the Kiwi international to have long-term. 

Nikora is one of the best line-runners in the NRL and at 24 is already closing in on 100 games in first grade. 

With Wade Graham in the final years of his career and Teig Wilton also chasing a spot on the left edge, Nikora's partnership with Nicho Hynes and Jesse Ramien on the right edge will be crucial for seasons to come.

Talakai's demolition job

The beast unleashed

If anyone realised their potential in 2022 it was Siosifa Talakai, who has now gone from a bench specialist to a strike centre. 

Talakai's barnstorming effort against Manly in Round 7, which included a season-high 17 tackle busts, led the former Rabbitoh to a State of Origin debut. 

While his metres remained a constant throughout the season, he was kept relatively quiet with only three line breaks in his final 13 games as rival sides began to do their homework.

Miller a cross-code hit

Not many players have come across from rugby union after playing at the senior level, let alone make an impact, but Lachie Miller's efforts in 2022 were among the highlights of the season for the Sharks. 

Miller's NRL debut on the Gold Coast was a special one and he now looms as a geniune back-up choice to Will Kennedy. 

His 55 tackle busts in 7 games averaged better than leading tackle-breaker James Tedesco for the season with his light-stepping a clear advantage after a career in rugby sevens. 

Miller is contracted until the end of the 2023 season and will be better for the experience and with another pre-season under his belt.

Magic Miller shines on debut

A replenished backline

Cronulla's back five was a constant reshuffle towards the end of the 2022 season which contributed to their defensive woes late in the year.

Sione Katoa (pectoral) missed the final months of the competition while Siosifa Talakai was affected by an ankle injury and didn't play in the finals loss to South Sydney.

Handy utility Connor Tracey also had plenty of time off the field with injuries and former Rooster Matt Ikuvalu was limited in his first season at the club.

A clean bill of health is crucial for any side but none more so than in the backline with edge combinations pivotal particularly in defence. 

Katoa and Talakai have made strong returns for Tonga at the World Cup and looks set to bring that form back to Cronulla while Ronaldo Mulitalo's progression continues to surge for the Kiwis. 

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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