NRL 2022: Cronulla Sharks ahead of finals with salary cap distraction

The Sharks face a salary cap distraction en route to the Finals as they try to keep their roster intact beyond next season.

The high-flying Cronulla faces a brutal salary cap distraction affecting his five starting players as they prepare to head into the final with real hopes of winning a second Premiership.

The Sharks, who have entrenched themselves in the top four, risk becoming a victim of their own success when faced with the prospect of their squad of standout backs hitting the open market on November 1st.

Will Kennedy, Sione Katoa, Jesse Ramien, Sifa Talakai and Ronaldo Mulitalo will all enter the final year of their existing contracts in early November.

At that point, they can sign with competing clubs for 2024. Making the situation even more pressing is the upcoming World Cup, meaning four of the five are expected to be abroad on November 1 – Kennedy could be the only one who isn’t part of the World Cup.

The clock is ticking for the Sharks as they try to keep their roster intact beyond next season.

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Club officials are well aware of the juggling act they face to keep the quintet of backline stars as all are likely in line for pay rises.

Talakai and Mulitalo have become states of origin and international representatives in recent months after playing central roles in the Sharks’ meteoric start to the year.

Kennedy is in the form of his life at fullback, Ramien was devastating at centers and Katoa scored tries for fun.

The Sharks will be given some leeway on the salary cap as Andrew Fifita and Wade Graham make decisions about their future in the coming weeks – both on $800,000-a-year contracts.

Fifita is expected to retire, although his recent form could still prompt a rethink. Graham is likely to add a year to a smaller contract, which relieves some of the strain.

However, that may not be enough to cover expected wage increases for their chain of five. The next month looks set to be crucial for the club as it is unlikely that he will burden the players with contract talks during the finals.

News Corp understands that Cronulla put talks with Talakai on hold while he was involved with the State of Origin series, but has revived discussions as they seek to re-sign him for at least another two years.

There is a sense of urgency around the others and coach Craig Fitzgibbon is careful that contract negotiations do not become a distraction on the road to the final.

Originally released as NRL 2022: Cronulla Sharks before salary cap distraction ahead of Finals NRL 2022: Cronulla Sharks ahead of finals with salary cap distraction

Nate Jones

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