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He would have preferred a better overall performance and a more satisfying result, but Sharks fullback Kade Dykes was just pleased to finish his first game in 18 months.

Showing some touches of class with the ball in his hands on an otherwise tough afternoon for Cronulla, Dykes clocked up just under 60 minutes in the No.1 jersey during their 44-18 loss to Newcastle in Saturday's Pre-Season Challenge clash at Gosford.

Those minutes were precious for the promising playmaker after he missed Cronulla’s entire 2023 campaign while recovering from a serious knee injury.

Dykes ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament at a pre-season training camp in Wollongong on January 31 – his 21st birthday – and was sidelined for the longest stint of his young career.

“It was good to get out there and blow the cobwebs out,” Dykes told

“Obviously it’s been a long time since my last game, so I just wanted to go out there, get as many minutes as I can, and get the footy back in my hands.

All Tries of the Pre-season Challenge - Week 1

“From a positional point of view, it was good to get the contact and running back in, and get a game under my belt, so it felt pretty good getting the first one done.

“Obviously it’s not the result we wanted, and we definitely didn’t play the footy we wanted to, but for me personally, I feel like I got what I wanted out of it physically.

“I wasn’t nervous at all, actually, I was just more excited. It’s been so long. I’ve just waited so long to get back out there and get amongst it.”

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Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon will expect more from the third-generation Sharks prospect as he builds his match fitness and condition in the games ahead.

“That’s his first game in a long time,” Fitzgibbon said of Dykes, a De La Salle Caringbah junior whose father Adam and grandfather John are former Sharks.

“Even pre-Christmas, he had a small procedure to fix his knee up again. He’s capable of doing plenty, ‘Dykesy’, but he’s also got to respect the fact that the kid has had 12 months off footy and that was his first hit-out, so he’s got more in him than that.”

Cronulla will tackle the Bulldogs at Belmore next Friday night in their second round of the Pre-Season Challenge before travelling to Auckland to face the Warriors in the opening round of the Telstra Premiership on March 8.

The Sharks will welcome back most of their established stars for the game against the Bulldogs but Dykes – who sits behind Will Kennedy on Cronulla’s fullback depth chart – hopes to be given another chance to try and secure a place in their 17-man squad for round one in Auckland.

10/10 for this Talakai bump

“I’m not too sure. I’ll play wherever; whatever’s best for the team,” Dykes said when asked what role he would like to play this year.

“I just wanted to get back out there and get that first game under my belt and see where it takes me from there.

“My body’s pulled up pretty good, I’m feeling pretty good, so I’ll recover and go again next week … and hopefully I’ll get another run.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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