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Panthers back-rower Liam Martin.

Attacking wasn't an issue for the Sharks in 2020 as they posted the fifth-most points (480) over the regular season despite being the last side into the finals.

But while Cronulla could sling the Steeden with the best of them, they cancelled that out that by conceding the same number of points.

If they want to return to the top-four, something they last achieved in 2018, the Sharks must stiffen up their defence.

They recorded the most missed tackles (704 - average of 35.2 per match) across last year's shortened 20-round season.

The Sharks were punished by opponents for their poor hit-and-stick on multiple occasions, conceding 30-plus points six times (not including their 32-20 finals loss to Canberra).

John Morris's team missed 40 or more tackles in nine matches, with the 56 they recorded in round three's 28-16 loss to the Wests Tigers being their sloppiest display in this regard.

Cronulla were acutely aware of their defensive shortcomings last year, and forward Toby Rudolf highlighted poor communication as one explanation when he spoke to the media in late August.

Analysing the Sharks' 2021 draw

"We've been putting our heads together and it's just a lack of concentration in defence. Our edges at times aren't working as a unit and it's the same with our middles," Rudolf said.

"I think it comes down to application on the field ... the biggest thing that's lacking in our game is that defensive talk."

Having had the summer to iron out the kinks, the Sharks could become a genuine top-four contender if they maintain their attacking strike-rate while clamping down in defence.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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