STORMING UP | Melbourne joined the Sharks at the top of the ladder with an 18-6 win over the Eels to...
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After missing the NRL top 8 for the past two seasons, Cronulla skipper Brett Kimmorley says it's time for the club to deliver the goods.
The Sharks have bought well in the off-season, strengthened in key areas and look strong on paper.
No excuses this time.
"We've got a great squad. On paper, we're as good as any other side," said halfback Kimmorley, who will play his first match since the Tri-Nations final last November in a trial against Newcastle in Gosford on February 26.
"Where Canterbury and Easts have been regularly good, we've certainly let ourselves down a few weeks in a row.
"We've bought really well and it's time we started living up to a bit of expectation."
Last year inconsistency and a lack of discipline dogged the Sharks, who disposed of top sides Brisbane and Sydney Roosters but too often dropped games they were expected to win in mediocre efforts.
In his second year at the club, coach Stuart Raper agreed that a repeat of the club's 2004 finish of 11th on the ladder was not acceptable.
"This year we've identified areas where we need to improve and I think our personnel is strong enough to up the ante and perform," said Raper, highlighting defence as the main area of concern.
"We should be coming out and performing at a higher level than we did last year on a weekly basis.
"I know these guys are a lot better prepared this year, both physically and mentally.
"We've got a lot more depth than last year and a better standard of player.
"We're stronger all-round. Irrespective of who we're playing, I'm just looking for a good performance."
Raper brought five-eighth Adam Dykes back to the club after an injury-plagued three-year stint with Parramatta, a move Kimmorley believes will take pressure off him as chief playmaker.
The Eels released Dykes, who joined the club from Cronulla at the end of 2001, from the final year of his contract.
"I've spoken to people who've played with him in the past and they've said he plays his best footy when all he does is float around the field," said Kimmorley.
"That's what I really like. He can take some pressure off me. I can use the forwards and he can use the backs."
Bring in super sub Michael Sullivan, who played 22 of his 24 games as a strike weapon off the bench in 2004, and the Sharks will have a three-pronged attack.
Raper said: "A lot of emphasis has put on Adam but with the season that Michael Sullivan had last year, we now have three crucial areas of creativity that we didn't have last year."
Another key buy is big centre Paul Mellor (Castleford), who will add some strength to complement Nigel Vagana's speed and sublime skills. It also allows Phil Bailey to shift back into the forward pack.
Raper said fullback David Peachey would be given first shot at the No.1 jersey, despite the promising form of David Simmons last season.
Peachey, the subject of much speculation about his future before he re-signed with the Sharks on a one-year deal, will play a trial against North Queensland in Mackay on February 19.
The good news for the Sharks is that a fit Andrew Johns is likely to force Kimmorley out of the NSW Origin squad, freeing him up to concentrate on club duties.
"My main factor is that we get our club to where it should be," said Kimmorley.
"We've missed the semis for the past two years after being so close to the grand final the year before that.
"The players we've bought and the expectation from the local area is that we should be a top side and certainly we need to prove that this year."