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Sharks halfback Chad Townsend.

Cronulla have had enough excuses over the past nine months to be sitting lower than sixth on the Telstra Premiership ladder but have already shown enough to suggest the club is tougher than ever.

Since the side's finals exit against Melbourne in 2018, the club has been forced to deal with co-captain Wade Graham's ruptured ACL, ruling him out for the first half of the season.

Then came Valentine Holmes' shock departure to the NFL, followed by the major hit – Shane Flanagan's abrupt departure after details were confirmed of the club's salary cap breaches.

The club's woes deepened on the paddock with injuries taking a toll – representative stars Aaron Woods, Matt Moylan and Shaun Johnson also spending significant time on the sidelines.

Sharks coach John Morris has been left with no choice but to throw a lot of young players into the deep end and after fears the roster had become an ageing one following title success in 2016, that notion has now all but been put to bed.

Graham expected to return; Johnson set to wait a week

"You're always wary of that," Sharks halfback Chad Townsend said.

"When we won the grand final a few years ago our squad in 2016 was very senior player orientated. Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes were our youngest players at 21. Everyone else was 25 or older.

"At some stage it was going to come and I think we've progressed through that really well. I think it's a testament to the staff and then to be able to get guys coming in for example Josh Morris, who has added a lot of experience."

The development of Bronson Xerri, Briton Nikora, Kyle Flanagan and Blayke Brailey in 2019 to go with Jayden Brailey and Sione Katoa's emergence last season now leaves Morris with selection dilemmas leading into the second half of the season.

Woods is also due back from a foot injury in round 14.

"We've had our fair share of adversity this year and we've also had some great performances from young guys who have come in and do a job," Sharks halfback Chad Townsend said.

"We're really comfortable and think we've got a squad here that if one person goes down the next man comes in and does the job they need to do.

"We've averaged a top four position over the past three seasons and that's something we're proud about and we see ourselves as a top four team and someone who can contend with the likes of the Storm and Roosters."

Townsend's own form has been consistent to reflect the side's gritty performances.

He sits 10th on the Dally M leaderboard with three tries and seven try assists.

"I put a lot of my form down to the style and game plan John Morris has allowed the team to play this year," Townsend said.

"I've got a great working relationship with John and he basically gives me the keys to the car in terms of offensive plan and structure. It's up to me to drive that and I'm accountable for that."

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