Senior Sharks players enthusiastically fronted up for their first day of NRL pre-season training on Friday, kicking off the hunt for a premiership in 2024 with a skills and conditioning session.
Minus representative stars Nicho Hynes, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Briton Nikora and Royce Hunt, who are recharging following the end-of-season Pacific Championships, the remainder of the NRL squad is now back on deck and raring to go.
Determined to build on two promising campaigns under coach Craig Fitzgibbon, the experienced boys looked fit and fast upon hitting the field at PointsBet Stadium for the first time since September's heartbreaking finals loss to the Roosters.
Blockbusting centre Jesse Ramien cut an impressively lean figure, while inspirational warhorse Dale Finucane was among the pacesetters for the forwards as more than 40 players sweated it out with a series of taxing shuttle runs.
It was a family affair for tireless hooker Blayke Brailey as the reigning Porter-Gallen Medallist trained alongside his teenage brother Taj, who was part of the first batch of emerging players to commence the pre-season on November 4.
Like Blayke and eldest brother Jayden, now at the Knights after starting at the Sharks, Taj is a skillful dummy-half. He played for the Cronulla under-19s SG Ball team last season, with his development to be aided by mixing it with first graders.
In good news, talented playmaker Kade Dykes is tracking well and approaching full fitness after missing the entirety of last season with a ruptured ACL.
Having played two NRL games at fullback in 2022, Dykes was tipped to push for a regular top-17 spot this year until his unfortunate injury. The third-generation Shark confirmed he should be well and truly ready come trial time.
"It was obviously a long year last year, but it's good to get back moving again, get a footy in the hands and get back around the boys," Dykes said.
"A few little things have to get ticked off (with his knee), but probably in the next few weeks I'll be good to go ... It's been a long time since I last played, so I can't wait.
"I did pretty much the whole (field) session, but just at the end when the boys did some conditioning I went and did it off-feet in the cardio room."
Dykes started training a fortnight ago with an exciting crop including Kayal Iro, Sam Stonestreet, Niwhai Puru, Max Bradbury and Tuku Hau Tapuha.
While only early days, Dykes nominated hulking Kiwi prop Salesi Ataata and outside back Kristian Dixon as having been particularly impressive among the young guns. Ataata and Dixon played in the under-21s Jersey Flegg team this year.
After finishing on the field, the players continued grinding in the weights room.
With the hard work just beginning, the NRL squad will set themselves a strong fitness base leading into the Christmas break before fine-tuning potential combinations ahead of trials against the Knights and Bulldogs in February.