Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan admits he erred last season by believing his team could simply replicate their 2016 premiership success.
The Sharks are seeking their sixth straight win when they take on an out-of-form Newcastle on Sunday, sparking memories of their 15 consecutive victories on the way to their maiden title two years ago.
But Flanagan won’t allow talk of the club’s 2016 victory to enter the group as he concedes it hurt their title defence last season.
“We’ve definitely approached it that this is a new journey in 2018,” Flanagan said.
“We’re not referring back to 2016. I think that was a big error on my part last year – we kept referring back to 2016.
“This is a new team, it’s a new journey. We’ve got different players in there, we’re celebrating the style of football we’re playing.
“We’ll never replicate 2016. That’s over. Can we win the comp again? Of course we can. But we can’t replicate ’16.”
The Sharks’ title defence ended with a whimper in the first week of last year’s finals.
Largely unchanged everywhere but at fullback from 2016, Flanagan maintained his team would find form when it mattered most despite winning back-to-back games only once in the second half of the season.
In the meantime, they fumbled their way to the worst completion rate in the NRL and gave away the most penalties, and both facts sunk them against North Queensland in the finals.
“I should have knocked it on the head straight away,” Flanagan said.
“We were inexperienced and winning our first competition, I hadn’t experienced it.
“We probably kept referring back to what we did in ’16 (and the Sharks would win) if we continued to do that we’ll do in ’17. But it wasn’t the case.
“We just needed to start again. And we definitely have this year. We’ve learnt our lesson.”
Cronulla’s lesson has been clear.
With Matt Moylan starting to find his way in the halves, they have completed at near to 80 per cent in four of the past five matches and lost the penalty count just once in that time.
“We’ve addressed that this year and we’re really enjoying the journey,” Flanagan said.
“The team of ’18, it’s completely different.”
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