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Running of the Sharks: 'Different' pre-season does the trick

Cronulla centre Jesse Ramien said a "different" pre-season which included an emphasis on running is already having a positive impact.

Under the watch of new high performance manager Nathan Pickworth, who was previously in a similar role at St George Illawarra, the Sharks have racked up the kilometres.

With the speed of matches increasing last year after the introduction of the six-again infringement rule, Ramien believes Cronulla will be well prepared.

"It's been different, we've had a bit of a staff change. It's been a lot tougher, but I think it's been good," Ramien told NRL.com.

"Each head of performance has their own way to do things. Some like to reduce the load, some like to run more, some like to do more conditioning games. This year we've been doing a lot of running.

"It's definitely paying off for the team, I think. A lot of the boys are hitting a lot of high-speed metres.

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"Our times have been a lot better than previous years and I think it's going to help us, especially with how the game's moving and how quick it's getting."

Forward recruit Aiden Tolman, who arrived at the Sharks after 10 seasons with Canterbury, is "really enjoying the change". 

"A lot of footy here, which has been good - we're doing a lot of stuff on the field, a lot of ball work and that sort of thing mixed in with our hard running," the 275-game veteran said.

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Coach John Morris has used the summer to test new combinations, with Ramien saying incumbent wingers Ronaldo Mulitalo and Sione Katoa have frequently swapped edges.

"They've been back and forth a bit, and there's been a bit of a mix-up in the centre positions as well," he said.

Cronulla boast a strong backline, but Ramien wouldn't be surprised to see Mawene Hiroti, who played two NRL games last year after moving from South Sydney, break into the team this year.

"He's had an unreal pre-season. I think he'll be pushing for centre, wing, he can slot anywhere in the backline, fullback," he said.

Ramien will play for the Indigenous side against their Maori counterparts in the Harvey Norman All Stars clash in Townsville on February 20.

He'll hope to use the game as a launching pad for a big year, admitting he didn't quite reach top form in 2020 after returning to the Sharks following a one-year stint at Newcastle.

"I'm excited. I came back last year, I thought I played a little bit better than I did the previous year [in 2019]," he said.

"I'm just looking to improve on last year, stay healthy on the field and off the field and play some consistent footy."