Stuart fearing flow-on effect - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stuart fearing flow-on effect

By Steve Jancetic 04/09/2009 05:58:18 PM Comments (0)

They're in danger of collecting the club's first wooden spoon in 40 years, but Cronulla coach Ricky Stuart believes the true effect of his side's horrible 2009 NRL campaign may not be felt until next season.

An unimaginable run of injury and off-field woes have seen the Sharks sink from being 80 minutes away from a grand final in 2008 to battling it out for last place on the ladder less than 12 months later.

A home loss to South Sydney on Saturday night would open the door for the Sydney Roosters to jump ahead of the Sharks into 15th place should they beat North Queensland on Sunday.

While there's been no talk of the wooden spoon during the club's two-day camp in Kiama on the NSW south coast this week, Stuart admitted to being wary of the damage the poor run - in which they have managed just five wins from 23 matches - would have on his youthful roster.

Of the 33 players used during the season, eight have made their debut in 2009 with Stuart forced to go long periods without the likes of injured players Brett Kearney, Trent Barrett, Ben Ross and Paul Gallen, while Reni Maitua and Brett Seymour were both shown the door mid-season due to off-field issues.

While some would argue the chance to blood youngsters had given the Sharks a head start on their 2010 program, Stuart claimed too many had been rushed into the top grade ahead of schedule.

"I don't see how it's a head start, if anything we've been given a disadvantage all season," Stuart said.

"It has been earlier (than I wanted) and I guess we'll see if it's been of any benefit next year.

"The one thing that's come out of the season is that I know what type of character we've got within and I'm very happy about the style of character that's been on display."

The Rabbitohs head to Toyota Stadium looking to continue their strong end-of-season surge, having claimed the scalps of Manly and St George Illawarra over the past three weeks.

Should the Sharks end up with the wooden spoon, it would confirm one of the most stunning slides in rugby league history given they finished equal on competition points with minor premiers Melbourne in 2008.

Canterbury in 1942-43 and Wests Magpies in 1952-53 are the last to complete similar freefalls, both going from minor premiers and premiers to wooden spooners the following year.

The match will also bring down the curtain on the decorated NRL careers of two players, with Corey Hughes (Sharks) to retire after the game and Craig Wing (Souths) headed to Japanese rugby union in 2010.

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