PENRITH, AUSTRALIA – JULY 13: Valentine Holmes of the Sharks makes a break during the round 18 NRL match between the Panthers and the Sharks at Panthers Stadium on July 13, 2018 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Pre Season Prediction: 6th
Actual Finish: 4th (prelim final)
The Star: Valentine Holmes
No man had a 2018 season quite like the Sharks’ fullback turn winger turn fullback.
Holmes started the season in the number one despite the presence of Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan, two pretty handy fullbacks in their own right.
His performances were inconsistent to say the least and soon found him shifted to the wing with Dugan and Moylan each taking their shot in the custodian role.
Soon though, Holmes became not only the number one number one for the Sharks, but one of the game’s elite fullbacks.
He was the form player of the competition across the final month and a half of the NRL competition.
He finished the season just one try behind David Fusitu’a in the top-try scoring list, with an incredible 21 tries (plus one more in the finals series).
He became the first Shark in the club’s history to score 20+ tries in a season, something made even more amazing due to the fact he scored most of his tries from fullback.
I honestly lost count of the long range tries Holmes scored in 2018 but few will forget his efforts against Penrith, or his two eye watering tries in the capital against Canberra.
Val went from a decent fullback to a genuine contender for the Kangaroos and Maroons jersey in the space of a month.
The Sharks will move heaven and earth in their efforts to re-sign their prized asset.
Season highlight: 48-10 win over Newcastle in round 12
Sharks fans will best remember their one-point win over the Panthers in the second week of the finals, but there was no more complete performance than the huge win in round 12.
Matt Moylan delivered the individual performance of the season with his six try assists, while the likes of Edrick Lee, Holmes and Jesse Ramien all had field days.
A late try conceded in each half were literally the only negatives across 80 almost flawless minutes for the Sharks.
Eight line breaks to one, 550 more running metres, and most importantly nine tries to two, this was utter dominance in every sense of the word.
Moylan was, rightfully, dominate the headlines every time this game is brought up, but Holmes, Dugan, Ramien and co all ran rings around their direct opponents.
This was a brilliant performance, away from home, by a red hot Sharks outfit.
Break Out Star: Jesse Ramien
Unfortunately their young superstar is on their way to Newcastle for 2019 and beyond but the 21 year old centre had a monster year in the Shire.
Ramien may already be the most difficult outside back to tackle one on one. The amount of busts he made out of nowhere will have Newcastle fans licking their collective lips.
Unfortunately Josh Dugan was unable to live up to expectations due to a variety of reasons but come finals time, even when Dugan possibly could have played, there was little chance of the Sharks dropping Ramien.
There were times in the season former Blue and Kangaroo Dugan was shifted to the wing to ensure Ramien could stay in his preferred centre position.
This kid is going places and was one of the Sharks best after coming back into the side. A huge loss but a brilliant season.
Season Grade: A
The Sharks were outclassed by the Storm one game short of a second Grand Final in three years. Given that the majority (41%) myself included, of the pre-season Zero Tackle poll had the Sharks finishing between fifth and eight, that’s a brilliant season.
They recruited well in Moylan and Dugan, taking two huge risks in the process. Moylan started slowly but ended up being a genuine star of the season.
Valentine Holmes, as previously mentioned, developed into one of the game’s elite fullbacks. Sione Katoa and Kyle Flanagan debuted and look to have huge futures in the Shire.
Although they would ultimately feel as though they let themselves down in their huge loss in Melbourne, overall you simply cannot talk highly enough of their efforts.
Much like in 2017, the Sharks managed to play finals footy without ever really playing their best footy.