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Chad Townsend in his first game back for the Sharks in Round 1.

An optimistic Chad Townsend is hoping for a happy homecoming ahead of the Sharks' clash with local rivals the Dragons on Sunday afternoon. 

Having not taken part in the traditional derby since his debut year, Townsend's first game back in Cronulla colours at Shark Park in front of family and friends has been a long time coming – the last time being Round 21, 2012. 

Unashamedly admitting where his loyalties lay as a fan growing up, Townsend said the derby has taken on all the more meaning now he's back at the club. 

"It's going to be a huge game. The local derby means so much to us and we're looking forward to everyone coming down this weekend and supporting us. It's something I certainly started to look forward to when I knew I was coming back," Townsend said.

"The shire loves these derbies. As a youngster I was a Sharks fan so I had a bit of an emotional connection before I left. I knew what the club was about and coming back it was a special moment for me to get back in amongst the boys. 

"Since day one they have welcomed me back with open arms and I'm very happy with where I'm at currently."

"To play in front of your family and friends is something special, and something I don't take for granted."

His first day back on the job for Cronulla – a 20-14 loss to premiers Cowboys – wasn't an ideal way for the club to kick-start their 2016 campaign, but Townsend was buoyed by the Sharks' never-say-die attitude.

"That's the best thing about this team. We don't die wondering. We have a lot of hard heads and a lot of experience, no matter what they'll always stick in there and give us the best chance of winning the game," Townsend said. 

"But [the Cowboys] showed us why they're the benchmark of the competition. I thought our boys did a really good job in competing with them up until the last five minutes when they scored late."

Combining with James Maloney for the first time against North Queensland, Townsend didn't beat around the bush when discussing the work that still needs to be done between the two. 

However the 25-year-old was complimentary of Ben Barba in his first game starting at fullback in nine months.

"I think he went well. Benny has a lot of experience at the back. His talk and communication is second to none and his attack, on his day, he's probably one of the best fullbacks in the game," Townsend said.

"We'll be looking forward to him having another big game this weekend."

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