Sharks recruit Cameron McInnes had been aware for 12 months that new Sharks mentor Craig Fitzgibbon wanted to coach him.
What McInnes didn't know was that he would be playing under Fitzgibbon this season after the pair separately made the decision to join Cronulla.
McInnes trained under Fitzgibbon, who was an assistant coach for the Blues, during the 2020 State of Origin series and the then Roosters defensive coach liked what the former St George Illawarra captain brought to the squad.
"I remember saying to him, 'I'm not sure where I'm going to end up coaching [in the NRL], but when I do, I am coming for you'," Fitzgibbon said.
"He was phenomenal, just intensity and preparation."
As fate would have it, Fitzgibbon didn't have to go chasing McInnes in the end with Cronulla getting their man under former coach John Morris in February.
However, McInnes' season-ending knee injury a week later and Morris's departure from the Sharks in April caused some disruption until Fitzgibbon's appointment was confirmed to reunite both in 2022.
Sharks' culture a big drawcard for McInnes
"He got the job and I was over the moon," McInnes said.
"I think he's going to bring some toughness and a defence-orientated approach. Coupled with the exciting players we have I think it's going to be a great balance there."
McInnes is one of three key signings for the Sharks in 2022, with Melbourne Storm pair Dale Finucane and Nicho Hynes also on board.
McInnes, who told a Sharks' post-season function last Friday that he was confident of being fit for the pre-season trials, said he had decided to make the move to Cronulla after being impressed by the club's vision.
"The club has been in the finals year after year. Whether there were injuries or off-field things, they were always competitive and there at the back end of the year," he said.
"I want to be a part of that. That's a culture thing. If a team or club is doing whatever it takes to get there regardless of what's happening that's strong.
"It's a young squad but they've got that experience now. A lot of them have had a good year on an individual level but you can tell speaking to them they want that team success.
"It's so exciting what's happening here at the club and first and foremost I want to repay the faith the club has put in me."
A handful of train and trial Sharks hopefuls are expected back at training next week and while McInnes is eager to join them after missing the 2021 season, Fitzgibbon wants him to wait until the following week to meet his new teammates.
He already knows Sharks captain Wade Graham after the pair became training partners when the NRL squad moved to Queensland in June for the remainder of the season.
Graham was sidelined after a series of head knocks but the 31-year-old is confident he can have close to a full pre-season in preparation for the 2022 campaign and is looking forward to playing under Fitzgibbon.
"I think it is exciting," Graham said. "He has probably been ready to be a head coach for a long time now and he has bided his time in waiting for the position that he felt comfortable in. We are lucky to have him."