Sharks prop Andrew Fifita hopes to return to representative sides in 2016.

Fifita his own harshest critic

Removing the ill-discipline in his game to ensure a more positive mindset is the mantra for firebrand Sharks prop Andrew Fifita as he pushes for a return to representative football.

Fifita believes playing smarter will ensure he critiques his own performances in a constructive way. 

The 26-year-old also didn't shy away from the fact his six-week suspension late last season for an incident involving a junior referee has helped him establish a newfound maturity. 

"I think I kind of brushed [my suspension] last year when I had my opportunity to play in the semis. I guess that was my time to focus back on football. I had two games just to prove I was back to my best when I wasn't," Fifita said.

"It's in the back of my mind but then again it's a whole new year. Cronulla's never won a premiership and that's the end goal at the end of the day. If I play well that means the boys are going good and it all comes together for us.

"I'm always a bit hard on myself and it's always been like that. I should be giving myself a bit more gratitude but I kind of brush what's happened in the past to look forward to the future," Fifita added.

"I focus on the negatives more than the positives. It could be one penalty in the game and I focus more on that even if I'm busting tackles or I get an offload away. It's a learning experience for me I guess. It's just about going into games happier."

While his six penalties in five games remains on par with last year's efforts (19 penalties in 18 games – ninth most competition-wide) Fifita is at the very least mindful of what needs to be done to improve. 

"It's just about trying to get away from [the ill-discipline]. Even [coach Shane Flanagan] said if I knock that out of my game then I'll be back in those rep jerseys, so there's a goal that I want to achieve," Fifita said.

"I find myself one of the leaders in this club so I want to be back where I should be. It's just one of those things you strive for and I've been there before, had a taste of it and I want it back now."

Another role Fifita has taken on board is one of a protector to the club's smaller players. 

A fresh change of pace from the aggression he's shown previously, Fifita came to the defence of Michael Ennis in particular on a number of occasions against the Wests Tigers over the weekend. 

"[Aaron Woods] and Micky were going at it so I had to jump in the middle of it. He's my little man, and he was butting heads with Tim Grant too. It's just those moments where I don't like to see big men all over my little men," Fifita said.

"To be honest I feel good about [being the protector]. I get respect for it and if I can earn Micky Ennis's respect then that's a massive honour."