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Despite tallying the most missed and ineffective tackles this season, the Sharks somehow still boast a better defensive record than nine rival teams and stand on the verge of the finals.

While they struggle to hit and stick, Cronulla have been much sturdier as far as points conceded per game compared to last season, in which they ranked 11th with an average of 24 after the shortened 20 rounds.

In 2021, interim coach Josh Hannay has helped reduce the team's average to 22.9 points conceded per game - not bad in such a high-scoring season - with a total of 528 leaked points over 23 games.

The Sharks average a competition-high 37.2 missed tackles (856 in total) and also top the unwanted stat of ineffective tackles with 415 at 18 per game, allowing opponents to create second-phase play.

Cronulla are well aware of their issues but aren't overly concerned at this point, preferring to trust in their positive traits.

But why is this occurring?

"We've scratched our heads at that question all year to be honest," veteran prop Aiden Tolman said on Wednesday.

"That's not new to us. We don't try to go out there and miss tackles and have 'ineffectives' or create offloads or anything like that.

"But I think for us, from last year, we were probably bottom four for defence as in points conceded. To be up in the top eight [in that aspect], I think it's just shown how far this team's come.

"We tried to limit those missed tackles through the middle part of the year, but it didn't happen and we sort of just put that aside.

"We didn't focus on it too much and more went with the attitude of defending really well, having a good mentality.

"We had the mentality of if someone misses a tackle, we have someone there to clean it up and it didn't really affect us too much.

"That's sort of the approach that we've taken and I think it's really working. I think our defensive efforts, particularly on the try-line, have been really good in the last sort of month, six, seven weeks.

"A lot of teams – as the new game is – get a lot of possession against you and [we have] defended some really good shape."

Hooker Blayke Brailey agreed that commitment was the key component to Cronulla's increased defensive resolve.

"We're working hard for each other, we're always scrambling to the corner if they throw the long ball to the winger," Brailey said.

"We're really having a mentality of putting a lot of effort into our defence. We are missing and ineffective on a lot of tackles, but for the majority, I feel we've been defending a lot better than last year.

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"I think people read into [missed tackles] a bit more than it needs to be. You can miss a lot of tackles but still win the game.

"I think the areas where we're working hard from marker, we're chasing outside backs – they're sometimes counted as a missed tackle.

"Fans obviously just see the end result. We're still working hard to get that number down, but it's definitely not our main focus."

However, Cronulla will want to tidy up their tackling against the first-placed Storm, who have scored more points than anyone else.

A win in Friday night's clash will all but guarantee the eighth-placed Sharks a seventh-straight year of finals footy.

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"We're looking forward to the challenge. It's going to be a big ask for us and a big task coming up against Melbourne," Tolman said.

"They've had some guys out but they've also got some really big guys coming back in. We're not too worried about that.

"We've put ourselves in a good position, really ... We know we're a good footy team, we know how we can play when we really go out there and focus on our roles."

Tolman, 32, remains unsigned for next season and while he hopes to stay at Cronulla, he is open to moving on.

"I know the stage of my career I'm at, I still think I've got plenty to offer on and off the field in this competition. I'm waiting to see what comes my way," the ex-Storm and Bulldogs forward said.

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