AAP Rugby

Sharks didn’t fulfil NRL potential: Morris

By AAP Newswire

They were forced to replace their coach on the eve of the season, endured a shocking injury toll, and suffered a goalkicking crisis.

But Cronulla coach John Morris believes his team still blew their shot at sending retiring captain Paul Gallen out with a second premiership.

Gallen and the Sharks were knocked out of the title race on Saturday after being ambushed by Manly 28-16 in their elimination final at Lottoland.

And Morris only had one message for his men after the match.

"I said to the boys then, they've got to remember this feeling right now because this is a missed opportunity," Morris said.

"We end up getting our best team back on the park at the right time but just didn't fulfil our potential. I suppose I don't know what to think.

"It's good that we made the finals from where we come from, but we also could've done a lot more. And that hurts."

Morris was left to a rue a campaign that had them on the backfoot in February.

Two weeks before the start of the season, Morris was hastily rushed in as rookie coach following the shock suspension of Shane Flanagan.

"The change of coaching in February, a couple of weeks before the comp starts, is a massive disruption to the club before a ball's even kicked," Morris said.

Then came a steady stream of injuries to their top-line players, including Wade Graham, Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan and Aaron Woods.

"I've never seen an injury toll like it. Our top 5-6 players, the amount of games that they'd missed was just crippling," Morris said.

But perhaps their biggest issue was a mysterious case of the goalkicking yips that cost them five games and could've landed them in the top four.

"We nail a couple of those goals, we finish in the top four and I'm not sitting here today in an elimination final. That's just the truth," Morris said.

Morris now faces the tricky task of navigating the Sharks into the post-Gallen era, which could include tapping some players on the shoulder in coming weeks.

Jesse Ramien is all but certain to return to the club following his falling out in Newcastle, instantly clouding the futures of centres Josh Dugan and Josh Morris.

Veteran prop Matt Prior is another who has been linked with a move elsewhere, joining Jayden Brailey, Sosaia Feki, and Kyle Flanagan in the departure lounge.

Kurt Capewell also remains uncontracted heading into a year where they will again be forced to play under the salary cap by $350,000 for cheating.

Morris is intent on heading into the pre-season free of their roster issues.

"This off-season allows us to ramp that up now," he said.

"It's very hard to manoeuvre that when you're also trying to get players to get up for you on the field when some of their futures might be a little bit uncertain.

"So it's something we've got to get addressed urgently as a club so we can enter this pre-season nice and stable in that area."