Sutherland Sharks coach Grant Lee says the Sharks are poised to surge up the NPL NSW Men’s competition ladder in 2018 after assembling an exciting blend of traditional Shire youth talent with an array of seasoned NPL NSW veterans.
The Sharks finished tenth in a disappointing 2017 campaign and haven’t qualified for the finals series since 2013 but Lee hopes this blend of youth and experience will bring Sutherland back into the championship mix.
“We’re feeling pretty good about this season to be honest, we’ve got a lot of boys back who are ex-Sutho players.
“Sutherland has always produced good footballers – a lot of good players come through this system, it’s just a matter of making it viable and building interest so that these boys can come back and play for the club – and that’s happened this year, which is nice.”
The Sharks offered flashes of brilliance in 2017 including a memorable 2-1 victory over would-be champions Manly United in round twelve but were unable to sustain the consistency required to truly mount a top-six challenge.
Lee was appointed head coach in May of last season following the departure of Carlos Villazon and says pre-season has been spent erasing the reoccurring defensive and concentration flaws that have plagued the Sharks in recent seasons.
“We were probably working too hard last season”, he said.
“There was a lot of intensity and a lot of good things happening for 70-80 minutes but that last 15 minutes almost seemed as if we were red lining for too long and we could never sustain the full 90.
“We now have a better quality of player that has played at a higher level and are a bit stronger both technically and physically.”
Only Parramatta FC finished with a worse defensive record than Sutherland last campaign and Lee has recruited former Hyundai A-League star Jacob Tratt and Hayden Morton to remedy these issues at the back, while Ryan Norval will replace retiring Sharks legend Nathan Denham between the sticks.
The Sharks have boasted their options in the final third substantially thanks to the captures of former Sydney United 58 players Nick Olsen and Adrian Vranic will also call Seymour Shaw home after signing on from the Northern Beaches based side.
Sutherland won the Premiership and Championship double in the U20’s last season and while this has resulted in the departure of several young prospects, including attacking starlet Matias Da Silva Santos, Lee says the likes of Lachlan Everett and Jake Borromeo will be pushing for first team positions.
They’ll have to compete with the likes of Juan Zapata, Lachlan Hughes and Leo Malfara who have all bolstered the depth of the Sharks squad.
Sutherland open their 2018 campaign away to staunch and local rivals Rockdale City Suns at the new synthetic turf, Ilinden Sports Centre at 5pm on Sunday 11th of March.
-By Jacob Windon