Dykes returns to the fold

A "warm" welcome waits for former Eels pivot Adam Dykes when the Cronulla Sharks open their NRL pre-season schedule.

The Sharks unveiled their 2005 season countdown on Tuesday - starting with a February 5 clash against Dykes' ex-club Parramatta at Lismore.

Dykes, 27, ended a frustrating three-season stint at Parramatta by organising a release from his final year to return to Cronulla where he turned heads from 1995-2001.

Hampered by injury at Parramatta, he played just 38 games.

The former NSW City Origin five-eighth expects plenty of attention from his ex-teammates when Cronulla takes on the Eels as part of a three-match pre-season schedule.

The Sharks will also play the North Queensland Cowboys at Mackay on February 19 and the Newcastle Knights at Gosford on February 26.

Dykes is one of several new Sharks recruited along with Paul Mellor (Castleford, England), Hutch Maiava (Bulldogs), Luke Covell (Wests Tigers), James Stosic (Newtown) and Beau Scott (Dragons).

Gone are Chris Beattie, Matt Bickerstaff, Dean Bosnich (France) and Paul Franze (Panthers).

Coach Stuart Raper announced his pre-season training squad which includes returning stars David Peachey, Jason Stevens, Danny Nutley and Michael Sullivan.

"We are changing the focus of our pre-Christmas training somewhat from the last few years," strength and conditioning coach Trent Elkin said.

"We will be doing a lot of strength, speed and skill components rather than just conditioning work."

The only players missing from pre-season training is Australian halfback Brett Kimmorley and Kiwi centre Nigel Vagana due to Tri-Nations duty.