Sharks quietly confident despite doubters
The Sharks might be the defending NRL premiers, but that hasn't stopped bookmakers from offering up juicy odds for Cronulla to be the first team since the Broncos in the early 1990s to win back-to-back titles.
Sportsbet have the Sharks on the eighth line of betting at $15, while the Roosters and Warriors – who both missed the eight in 2016 – will head into the new season at shorter odds.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said he wasn't concerned about odds and public opinion and wouldn't buy into the theory that his side would be the hunted in 2017.
"That's more of a media perspective," Flanagan said on Tuesday afternoon as the Sharks announced Opal Solar as their naming rights partner.
"Sides these days in the NRL, every week is such a competition. You can't drop your guard for one minute otherwise you'll get beaten. It's a good position to be in for us and we haven't been in it before.
"Maybe teams do prepare a little bit better… maybe in previous years they came here and just thought they'd get the two points. Now they know they'll have to come here and work for them."
According to Flanagan, the key to a successful title defence will be getting off to a good start in the opening rounds.
"It's our job now to prove everyone wrong like we did last year. A couple of people predicted we'd win the comp, and we've just got to believe in ourselves and trust in what we do day to day," he said.
"With a bit of luck along the way with no injuries, we'll give it a shake.
"I heard Gal (Sharks skipper Paul Gallen) this morning on the radio [and I agree]; if you make the top four then you give yourself a chance. Our first thing is to win on Thursday night, and as a bigger picture thing, we just need to finish in the top four.
"If you win two out of every three games then you're in the top four and that's where we need to be at the end of the year.
"The drums will only beat louder if we don't get off to a good start."
The defending premiers have the honour of kicking off the new Telstra Premiership season against competition heavyweights the Brisbane Broncos who, like the Sharks, have already been written off by some.
However, Flanagan knows full well that any side coached by Wayne Bennett is a scary proposition.
"The Broncos are a great footy team and it's going to be a good game," he said.
"In the back of my mind, I think Wayne has got a publicist out there promoting all these ideas. You don't win eight comps if you're not a great coach.
"You come across some times when you need to stand up and coach really well, and as coaches we have some good weeks and we have some bad weeks. I know Wayne will be up there sitting back and he won't be reading too much media."
The Broncos have already beaten the Sharks this year in a pre-season trial game in Redcliffe, and Gallen thinks that win will give the visitors a confidence boost heading into Thursday night's game at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
"I think they'll come out firing," Gallen said.
"The boys played them in a trial a few weeks ago and to be fair, they bashed us right through the middle and won that game quite easily. They're going to come down here with a bit of confidence knowing they beat us only a few weeks ago."