Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
2 days ago
Long-suffering Cronulla fans have reason to smile, their club is running equal top of the NRL table and fullback Brett Kearney believes the Sharks haven't even scratched the surface in terms of playing their best football.
Kearney says the Sharks have managed three tight wins - over Manly, Melbourne and Saturday's golden point 18-16 thriller over St George Illawarra - without putting together one piece of attacking play they've trained for.
"I still don't think we've scored a try using our plays that we do at training," said Kearney.
"We are still winning the games without our attacking plays which is good because that means when we do click we will move it up a level."
The Sharks have not won a premiership since joining the competition in 1967 and last year missed the top eight by just one win after losing nine games by less than one converted try.
Kearney missed most of last season as he battled multiple quadriceps strains and he, like most Sharks fans, admitted it was a painful experience last year.
"Even though I was not on the field I could still feel the losses," he said.
"There were some games (that) I was sitting in the stands (for) last year I couldn't watch and put my hands over my face.
"We've turned it around this year and we've started on the way we want to go."
But coach Ricky Stuart says the Sharks must lift if they intend to compete with teams like Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney Roosters.
"We will be a lot better football team when we can get our attack going," he said.
"We're not transferring the quality of the boys' skill and ability of what they're doing during the week to game day. That is something we have to try to find out why.
"We've got a good footy team there if we can just keep improving our attack. It's an issue at the moment, it's been an issue for a while."
One thing going in Stuart's favour is the form and health of Kearney, the fullback playing just eight games last year.
Kearney starred against the Dragons on Saturday, scoring one try, carrying the ball a game-high 274 metres and being flawless under the high ball.
Stuart is confident his men can progress further in 2008 with the custodian fit and firing.
"He is that sort of person you need on deck for these types of games," said Stuart.
"He was a big loss last season but he has come back well this year.
"He has that little bit of X-factor about him. He has that ability to make that half a hole break and players feed off that.
"When you've got a player that can do that it gives the players around the ball more confidence."