NRL 8 months ago

Sharks aim to stop horror starting record

  • Sharks aim to stop horror starting record

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 23: NRL Premiership winning Sharks captain Paul Gallen is introduced during the 2017 NRL Season Launch at Martin Place on February 23, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Cronulla will adopt a no-thrills approach in their season-opener on Thursday night as they bid to ditch the unwanted record as the slowest starters in the NRL.

The Sharks have recorded the least wins of all teams across the first month of the NRL over the past five years, winning just a combined six games of a possible 20 since 2012.

In that time they have won only one round-one fixture, an emotion-charged 12-10 victory over Gold Coast at Shark Park in 2013, just weeks after the emergence of the ASADA scandal.

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Making matters worse for the defending premiers ahead of their season-opener, they face a Brisbane team that has the second-best opening-month record in the NRL over the same time period.

The Broncos have won 13 of a possible 20 opening-month fixtures since 2012, three shy of the Storm's impressive mark of 16.

However Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan insists this season will be different.

"I've got a lot more of an experienced team that has been to semi-finals and grand finals now that should be able to understand what it takes to win football games," Flanagan said.

Premierships cannot be won in the opening month, but they can easily be lost.

Only three teams have made the NRL top four in the past 11 years after failing to win at least two of their opening four matches.

In contrast, the Sharks have recently averaged just 1.2 wins over the opening month, including successive years in 2014 and 2015 where they failed to claim a sole victory, while in their premiership year of 2016 they won two of their opening four games beating St George Illawarra and Melbourne in rounds two and four.

It's a trend Flanagan is all too aware of, and why he will implore his team to stick to the basics against Brisbane.

"Early on there are some key indicators and we probably haven't done that in previous years," Flanagan said.

"You've got to be good in your completion rate and limit your missed tackles and penalties.

"Later in the season, obviously offensively, you need to start kicking into gear and scoring some points. But now it's just maintaining field position."

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