Sharks teammates Valentine Holmes and Chad Townsend.

Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend challenged Valentine Holmes to become more involved and the fullback didn't let him down.

Holmes moved to fullback after Josh Dugan was ruled out with a broken bone in his foot and was an integral part in the Sharks' past two wins over Parramatta and Canberra.

Over those two games, the 22-year-old ran a combined total of 466 metres, scoring two long-range tries, along with three line breaks.

Townsend was bragging to NRL.com that part of that lift in Holmes's game was due to him issuing a friendly challenge.

"With Duges (Josh Dugan) being out he got an opportunity at the back and he's really taken it with both hands. He really wants to learn the position and do as best he can," he said.

"I've had a chat with him about a few things around targets and challenges, things like support plays, and injecting yourself in the game and he's really taken it on board.

Will Kennedy, Ricky Leutele, Blayke Brailey, Kurt Dillon, Kyle Flanagan, Jack Williams.
Will Kennedy, Ricky Leutele, Blayke Brailey, Kurt Dillon, Kyle Flanagan, Jack Williams. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"I set him a target for 20 support plays on the weekend and he got 28, so come Monday morning he was in my ear about it," Townsend said.

"I'm super proud of him and hopefully he can keep dishing out performances like that, whichever position he plays in." 

Powerhouse prop Andrew Fifita has been dominant for the Sharks up front recently and Townsend believes the veteran forward is in career-best form, while adapting well into his new-found leadership role.

"His last month of football has probably been the best month of football he's had in his career, potentially," he said.

"The ability for him to playing 80 minutes in the front row is just a phenomenal effort. He's taken the leadership role in his stride and he's done an excellent job."

Cronulla return to Southern Cross Group Stadium on Sunday to take on the Bulldogs, who are coming off a 20-12 win over the Eels. If the eighth-placed Sharks win, they could end up in a share of second spot at the end of the round. But a loss could send them as low as 11th such is the tightness of the clubs mid-table.

"It's an important game for us," Townsend said.

"The competition is very tight at the moment. If you win, it really propels you right up there and if you loss you sort of get stuck with a logjam of teams.

"We know the Bulldogs always lift when they come play us and it's going to be no different this weekend. We need to make sure we prepare well and train well and put in a good performance."

Meanwhile, the Sharks have renewed their NSWRL second-tier partnership with the Newtown Jets for a further five years, or through until the end of 2023.

In a show of stability and an endorsement of the strong working relationship which has been forged between the two clubs, the Sharks and Newtown Jets announced the long-term extension of their NSWRL Intrust Super Premiership partnership earlier today.

The Sharks and Jets teamed up briefly in 2005, before renewing acquaintances in 2015, which will now mean nine consecutive seasons between the NRL and Intrust Super Premiership teams.