After “winning ugly” for years, Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan says the Sharks are ready to spark into life after being encouraged by what he saw from his revamped team against North Queensland on Saturday.
The Sharks were pipped 20-14 by the NRL premiers in their round one clash in Townsville but Flanagan said there was plenty of positives to come out of the game.
Sporting a new-look halves combination of James Maloney and Chad Townsend and with Ben Barba slotting in at fullback and Jack Bird shifting to the centres, the Sharks came within a whisker of upsetting the Cowboys.
Flanagan spent the summer mulling over how to fit Bird and Barba into the same side but both made positive starts in their new roles.
Bird made no secret of his desire to wear the No.1 in a bid to get his hands on the ball as much as possible but was pushed out to the centres after Barba out-pointed him during the trials.
Bird refused to kick stones and was one of his side’s best as they fell short against the Cowboys and Flanagan said he now shaped one one of their best attacking weapons.
In recent years, the Sharks have been pigeon-holed as a team built on grinding defence and the ability to grind out dour wins but Flanagan said he expected them to evolve into an attacking outfit this year.
“It’ll only get better, we have a lot of improvement in us,” Flanagan said.
“I thought we turned over a fair bit of football and our offence was good in patches.
“But if we can get it right for more minutes, I think we’ll be a real dangerous footy side.
“Birdy was outstanding. He carried for over 143 metres and scored a try, his defence was pretty solid and I thought he played very well in the centres and I thought Benny Barba was faultless as well.”