New year, same Cronulla Sharks.
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan is adamant his team are ready for the challenge as the Sharks face one of the busiest starts to the year of any NRL club.
As well as the Auckland Nines tournament on February 4 and 5 and a trial against Brisbane on the same weekend, the reigning NRL premiers head to the UK for the World Club Challenge against Super League side Wigan on February 19.
It has been a glorious summer for Sharks fans as they have basked in the glory of their first premiership, won thanks to a thrilling grand final victory over Melbourne in October.
But Flanagan told the club’s website it was time to move on to the next test, starting with the season opener against the Broncos at Southern Cross Group Stadium on March 2 – five months to the day since the greatest in the club’s history.
“At some stage we have to put [last season] behind us. While it was a fantastic year and everyone enjoyed it … we’ve got to look forward to 2017,” Flanagan said.
“We need to play and perform like the premiers. We need to get our heads on, we need to get our feet back on the ground.
“I think we’ve done that… we haven’t lost or forgotten too much. We’re starting off [this season] from where we left [last season].”
Before the Sharks host the Broncos looking to start their charge for back to back titles with a win, Cronulla will travel to England for the clash with Wigan.
At some stage we have to put that behind us. While it was a fantastic year and everyone enjoyed it... we’ve got to look forward to 2017.
The significance of the match is not lost on Flanagan, who sees it as an opportunity to add another piece of silverware to the club’s trophy cabinet.
“We’re going to go over there and put all our efforts in to win [against Wigan],” Flanagan said.
“All of our training has been focused around being ready for that game. It’s a little bit different [to regular trial matches].
“It’s a change of focus, to go to England and win that and then to come back and be in really good shape and a good space going into round one at home against the Broncos.
“It’s brought our schedule forward a few weeks but that’s the joys of winning the competition.”
New signings Manaia Cherrington (Tigers), Tony Williams (Bulldogs), Jeremy Latimore (Panthers) and Daniel Mortimer (Titans) are expected to feature.