Backing up a strong start to the NRL season with three losses upon Shaun Johnson’s return, questions are being rasied over the superstar Sharks signing.

It was only a month ago that the Sharks were circling the premiership favourites and threatening to become a contender themselves.

Then at $8 to finish the 2019 NRL season lifting the trophy, three consecutive losses have seen that price blow out to $17 heading into Round 17.

Whether it’s his fault or not, Shaun Johnson is wearing the blame.

Johnson’s Influence

Look, even the most rusted on Shaun Johnson fan can’t hide from these numbers.

His return to the side from injury – along with Matt Moylan and Aaron Woods – was meant to be the turning point of Cronulla’s season. Treading water to be an impressive 7-5 for 6th on the NRL ladder, having roughly a quarter of their salary cap returning to the field has only brought with it L’s.

Matt Moylan has had back-to-back shockers for six errors in 137 minutes across the last fortnight. Meanwhile, Aaron Woods played a leading role in Brisbane’s comeback last week.

While the record with Johnson isn’t flash, it’s not all on him.

He is the one to turn this all around, though.

Crashing Smith’s 400th

What better way for Johnson to get the fans off his back and the Sharks to end their losing streak than by beating the Storm in Cameron Smith’s record-setting 400th NRL game?

Rank outsiders at $3.64 and +8.5, it’s the ideal opportunity for the Sharks to reannounce themselves as contenders.

Andrew Fifita’s return will help the side. Perhaps more importantly, it will help Johnson. Playing behind a strong pack just a fortnight ago, the Sharks number six ran for 132 metres on 18 runs and the team looked better for it. If John Morris wants his five-eighth to run with the football, the platform needs to be set in the middle first.

Appearing to have lose Wade Graham for a number of weeks with a hamstring injury from Origin 3, the Sharks won’t be as effective on the left edge. This is still a side with a high ceiling, though.

From the Round 17 Preview:

“This Sharks team is great on paper. They should be further up the NRL ladder. Round 17 against the competition-leaders is when they’ll start to prove it.”

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NRL Futures Markets

Plenty will want to see how the Sharks travel against the Storm before investing in their NRL future. However, there is an opportunity there for the optimists.

The $17 the Sharks are taking to finish as NRL Premiers jumps out. Especially when you consider they’re surrounded by perennial chokers in the Raiders and long-time strugglers in the Knights, also at $17. Sure, they’re not in great form right now, but the Sharks have a lot of improvement in them and have been there and done all of this just three years ago.

While it may be too early to start dreaming of premiership glory, the time will come in the Shire. At $1.33 to make the Top 8, the expectation is that the Sharks are there in September.

The problem the Sharks have is no NRL side has ever won the premiership from outside the top four. Currently 8th and looking every bit like and 8th-place team, the Sharks face an uphill battle and whopping $6 odds to get there.

It may all be doom and gloom in the Shire at the moment. There’s a very good chance that the Storm adds to it on Saturday night. However, if the Sharks can put in an improved showing and push one of the favourites in the NRL Premiers market close, the conversation around contending themselves may reopen.

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