Matt Moylan has struggled for fitness since signing with the Sharks.
Matt Moylan has struggled for fitness since signing with the Sharks.

NRL flops a multimillion-dollar mess

St George relieved some of the pressure on coach Paul McGregor with a 30-16 win over Cronulla on Sunday, deflecting some of the heat he's been copping onto the struggling Sharks.

All the talk before the weekend has been how the Dragons, with such an impressive roster, had managed to go four rounds without a victory - and two rounds without a try - but more questions will now be asked of the Sharks after another ordinary loss.

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They've won just once from five attempts this season, along with the Dragons, Titans and Bulldogs. Realistically, Gold Coast and Canterbury don't boast the cattle necessary to make a finals charge but the same can't be said of Cronulla, which is being let down by its biggest stars.

In recent years the club has signed Matt Moylan (Penrith), Shaun Johnson (Warriors) and Josh Dugan (Dragons) on big-money deals and re-signed prop Andrew Fifita on a lucrative multimillion-dollar contract to keep him at the club until the end of 2022.

Moylan was lured across from Penrith in 2018 on what was reported to be a $3.6 million deal for four years, Johnson arrived in the Shire in 2019 after being cut loose from the Warriors on a reported $3 million, three-year deal and Dugan inked a $3 million, four-year deal starting in 2018.

Unfortunately for coach John Morris it's been a battle to get his top talent on the park, then get them performing at the level required of players on such chunky pay packets.

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Daily Telegraph rugby league reporter Phil Rothfield said Fifita is clearly hampered by a knee injury following more surgery on it late last year, but also called out the lack of output from his high-profile teammates.

"It's not only Andrew Fifita, and you can see by his size he's not really fit at the moment. He's been unable to train and he's got a knee injury," Rothfield said on the Big Sports Breakfast.

"I actually thought it's got to the stage where he needs to consider a medical retirement.

"To signal him out is a little unfair because there are other huge names at Cronulla - I'm talking Josh Dugan, Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan - who are some of the top-paid players at the club who are not justifying their salary.

"Probably the sixth-highest paid player is (halfback) Chad Townsend - I think he's had one try assist all year.

"They are really, really struggling.

"As I've suggested to other Cronulla fans, I think they've got to batten down the hatches and expect a bit of pain for the next couple of years until these players are off contract, and a major rebuild will take place.

"They're not going to be far off the wooden spoon."

Shaun Johnson has been firing blanks since arriving in Sydney.
Shaun Johnson has been firing blanks since arriving in Sydney.

Moylan was an Origin player and captain at Penrith but has struggled to find full fitness since joining Cronulla, managing just 11 games in 2019. He was ruled out of the first two games this season with a calf issue and missed the Dragons loss with a hamstring injury.

Moylan came off the bench against the Tigers in round three and played five-eighth in a win over the Cowboys in round four, but there is still conjecture about where he fits into the team if Townsend and Johnson are the halves, having alternated between fullback and pivot during his career.

Johnson has been the Sharks' most disappointing recruit, producing rocks rather than diamonds in the light blue. Even after his best game of the season in Cronulla's 26-16 win over North Queensland, ex-Queensland and Australian halfback Cooper Cronk gave Johnson a reality check.

"Johnson won the Golden Boot in 2014, signed with the Sharks on a three-year deal - this is his second - and to be honest he's fired blanks since arriving," Cronk said on Fox League.

"He can be the best player in the world but he just doesn't deliver enough for me. Johnson needs to be the star."

There were reports Dugan wanted to quit before the 2020 season but decided to play on after rediscovering his love of rugby league, and he has been one of the Sharks' best players since the campaign resumed in late May.

Before round one the centre denied accusations the club was unhappy with his effort and attitude but, like Moylan and Fifita, he has endured injury troubles that have made it difficult for him to find his explosive best.

Dugan has played 12 Origin games for NSW but, since joining the Sharks has yet to win a recall with the Blues.

 

 

Originally published as Footy flops a multimillion-dollar mess

News Corp Australia


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