Fast start key for Sharks: Graham
Two points could have been all the difference for the Sharks in 2015.
It was only in the penultimate game of the regular season that Cronulla's chances of securing a top-four spot were ended – a 14-12 loss to the Sea Eagles in a Shark Park thriller seeing the club finish sixth instead.
While that loss was disappointing, the Sharks could have sewn up a top-four finish earlier had they not started the season with four straight defeats.
Cronulla vice captain Wade Graham doesn't want to repeat that kind of poor start this season, though it won't come easy with matches against reigning premiers North Queensland, 2015 finalists Melbourne and the Dragons as well as bogey team Manly the first four cabs off the rank for the Sharks this year.
"It wasn't ideal to start, the way we did last year," Graham told NRL.com.
"We put ourselves right behind the eight ball and had to graft a whole year of working extremely hard to give ourselves the chance of playing finals footy.
"Hopefully we have learnt our lesson from that. The NRL is such a close competition and it's hard enough as it is anyway, let alone dropping the first four games.
"You sort of realise with the older you get, and the more you play, how every game is so important because the competition is so close. Every game is crucial. Going 0-4, we realised how hard we made it for ourselves.
"All of us are happy with where we're at and now it's just time to transfer that into games and hopefully into results."
While his priorities remain with the Sharks, the 25-year-old City Origin captain is hoping to make his long-awaited State of Origin debut for New South Wales this year.
After spending a week within the Indigenous All Stars camp with coach Laurie Daley, Graham is keen to impress the NSW mentor when the season gets underway.
"I had a good week with Loz actually, I've known him for a while now having spent some times away in Origin camp with the Blues as 18th or 19th man, and also through the emerging camps so it was a good week to spend away with him," Graham said.
"I'd love to play [Origin] like anyone else. It's certainly a dream of mine and a big goal, something I'm also looking to do.
"But I'm realistic about it as well. I know it starts here at Cronulla and that's where it's important to me to play how I was playing towards the backend of last year.
"The other stuff will take care of itself; it is only February so my focus is getting off to a good start in Cronulla."