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Interim Sharks coach John Morris.

Sharks mentor John Morris believes the constant adversity his side faced in his rookie season has made him a "stronger person and a wiser coach".

Thrust in as head coach on a three-year contract last January after Shane Flanagan's NRL suspension, the 39-year-old faced a baptism of fire.

"I probably had more thrown at me in one year than a lot of coaches have had in a number of years," Morris told

He was barely a month into the top job when Cronulla were smacked with a hefty fine and salary cap penalties by the NRL over historical cap breaches.

CEO Barry Russell then departed in April. On the field the club was struck by what Morris called a "horrendous injury toll", with almost 1000 NRL matches worth of experience sidelined at one point.

A run of five consecutive defeats mid-year – despite scoring more tries than the opposition in four of those games – further tested his resolve.

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Through this, Morris managed to guide the side to a fifth straight finals series, and though "very disappointed" they couldn't get past Manly in week one, he feels confident about the future.

"I look back at [the tough times] now as really good experiences," Morris said on Thursday - day two of his first full pre-season in charge.

"If we get in those moments again next year I'll certainly be able to handle them even better than I did this year.

I probably had more thrown at me in one year than a lot of coaches have had in a number of years

John Morris on his first year as an NRL coach

"And I was pretty happy with how I handled those adversities this year, to be honest. I was quite happy with my efforts and to get through to the finals with all that against us."

The former dummy-half said it was important to maintain an "even keel".

"I've been really lucky. I had a 300-game career, I know what it's like to be at this level," Morris said.

"I still think I've done a pretty good apprenticeship to get here in coaching through the Sharks lower grades and [being an NRL] assistant coach and working my way up.

"It hasn't come as quick as what many people thought it did but I'm really enjoying the role and I look forward to success for many years to come."

Morris has another conundrum – albeit a pleasant one – leading into 2020 with an overload of high-quality centres to choose from.

Jesse Ramien has returned to Cronulla after an ill-fated season with the Knights. He joins teenage gun Bronson Xerri and veterans Josh Morris and Josh Dugan in a battle for spots. 

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"I said to the boys yesterday, those who work the hardest between now and round one are going to get those jumpers," coach Morris said.

"There wouldn't be one jumper in our squad that hasn't got genuine competition for it and the boys know that. That's only a good thing for me.

"We have got some [outside backs] depth there but we've got some versatility as well."

Morris helped bring Ramien to the Sharks from the Sea Eagles when he was coaching Cronulla's under 20 side in 2016 and is happy to be working with him again.

"Who would've thought I'd be signing him two times in under four years, the second time in an NRL position?" Morris laughed.

Jesse Ramien will be in Sharks colours again in 2020.
Jesse Ramien will be in Sharks colours again in 2020. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

"I was shattered to see him leave last year ... I think the whole club was shattered. I welcomed him back the other day at training and I said he had a 12-month holiday there [at Newcastle]. 

"He's really happy, focused and hungry to really show everyone that he can get back to his best."

Cronulla will take their home games to Netstrata Jubilee Oval for the next two seasons as developments take place at Pointsbet Stadium.

While acknowledging there would be some challenges with the move, Morris urged Sharks supporters to keep the faith.

"If we can get through this two-year period where we're away from home, we're coming back to a brand new Leagues Club, entertainment precinct and centre of excellence," he said.

"All of a sudden the Sharks are here for a long time to come and it's going to be exciting."

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