As children and adults alike flocked to their favourite player on the surface of Remondis Stadium on Sunday, veteran back-rower Anthony Tupou said the Cronulla Sharks' family-friendly approach to their season launch was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the changed culture at the club this year.
With balloons, jumping castles and an autograph session taking over the usual formal, alcohol-fueled proceedings of a club's season launch, Tupou said it showed there were plenty of changes afoot in the Shire in the post-ASADA scandal era.
"All of the season launches I've been too have been all formal and a bit too serious but I think this sort of stuff suits us, getting involved with the fans. It also just shows we are going to have a different year and there is plenty of a change coming this season," Tupou told NRL.com while getting mobbed by excited Sharks fans at the launch.
"You can tell that there are big changes everywhere throughout the club, even in terms of the gym and field sessions. In terms of things like this – our season launch – I think everything is moving in a positive direction. It's something different and it's definitely been well-received."
Tupou, who was one of the four Sharks players suspended by ASADA at the end of last year, believes a new start at the club has changed things for the better.
Boosted by the return of coach Shane Flanagan in late-November after a year out of the game and the signings of star duo Michael Ennis and Ben Barba, Tupou said there was an enthusiasm around the club that he and his teammates hadn't felt in a long time.
"I don't want to talk us up too much but the feeling around the club is really positive and everyone has been ripping in because there is pressure for spots basically. For the first time in a long time this is a place where you want to be," Tupou said.
"It's a great environment to be involved in and it hasn't been like that over the past few years. Players have rolled in and rolled out without too much care but now this is a place where our young kids should consider themselves lucky to be here.
"The club has done a good job getting these talented boys like Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird to this point. It lifts us older boys. To see that the enthusiasm is back again, it makes you want to match it. You don't want to let anyone down which is awesome."