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Coach Herman hopeful as NRLW pre-season begins

With the benefit of a year's experience, the Sharks NRLW squad hit the ground running as they kicked off pre-season training this week.

Several new faces have joined a core group of players who were part of Cronulla's inaugural campaign in the elite women's competition in 2023.

While the Sharks showed promise in finishing sixth with four wins and five losses, head coach Tony Herman believes the team are now more equipped to succeed.

"The fact we've got that season behind us is really, really good," he said.

"We've really noticed in the first few training sessions the focus of the girls is a lot better across the board. There were some things last year that we probably didn't do as well as what we should have. Everyone's aware of that and that's all part of teething problems. It was what it was. This year, we're definitely in a better space."

Cronulla begin their season against the Cowboys at PointsBet Stadium on July 27.

"The girls haven't played for a long period of time, so at the moment we're getting a gauge on their fitness and where it's at," Herman added.

"Some have played up in the BMD (Premiership in Brisbane), some have played other sports, some haven't done much at all. We're just trying to get a really good gauge on where we're at fitness-wise and starting to get into some defensive stuff and a little bit of attack stuff. Our early focus is on our defence."

In a major change, the Harvey Norman NSW Women's Premiership will now be held concurrently with the NRLW, becoming a genuine second-tier competition.

Herman is working closely with new Harvey Norman coach Rob Capizzi, who previously guided North Sydney, to ensure all Sharks players are on the same page.

"We want to run it like a true reserve grade. Obviously, you can't have girls if they're not in your top 24 go and play NRLW the next week," Herman said.

"But we'll be transferring girls down (to the NSW Premiership) and stuff like that. And if we did happen to have injuries – touch wood we don't lose anyone for the season – that's where we would look to (for cover) because those girls would be in our system and have a good understanding of the way we play."

Development is crucial for Herman, hence he's retained the bulk of his 2023 squad while also promoting from within. However, he's landed a few shrewd signings, including former Black Ferns representative Pia Tapsell, ex-Australian rugby sevens prodigy Georgia Hannaway and the versatile Nakia Davis-Welsh.

"We wanted to keep a fair bit of continuity in key positions if we could," he said.

"We've improved our squad and we think we're better than what we were last year. We've got some really good pick-ups and we've got high hopes for those girls.

"We want to have our learnings from last year and understand what we did really good and what we did not so good. We'll certainly take those learnings on board and change a few of the things we do. We've got a few minor tweaks in our defence and in our attack, the way we're going to do things. Training will change a little bit.

"We're pretty happy with where we're at, but we've got a bit of work to do."

The Sharks plan to play a trial against the Roosters leading into Round 1.

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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