By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
SOME of the biggest names in the club's history may not be taking the field for Cronulla in 2006 but that hasn't dampened Luke Covell's thoughts of a bumper year for the team from Sutherland Shire.
"I think we're looking good this year as we've got some great young fellas coming through," the winger said.
"We might be missing guys like Peachey and Stevens but it's amazing how improved the young kids are and they're standing up and doing everything that's being asked of them."
Covell and this team-mates only need to look at recent history to prove that an inexperienced line-up doesn't necessarily mean that they're destined for the footballing scrapheap in 2006.
"Have a look at what happened with the Tigers last year, they had a young team to start with and they went all right," he added.
"What Stuart Raper is trying to implement this year for everyone is to do your job but to have fun doing it.
"When that happens you'd be amazed at the results that you can get."
When the Sharks run on to the International Stadium tomorrow night for their trial match against Newcastle there will be a couple of fallen comrades missing from the team but the Murwillumbah junior believes that the club needs to make hay no matter what line-up takes the field.
"It's not our full strength side that will be playing this weekend as we've got a few injuries to blokes like Paul Gallen and Nigel Vagana but it could be the side that we might be starting the season with," he said.
"It's the last trial game for us so we'll look to do well with our defence as well as getting most of our combinations right."
When it comes to getting a team's defensive line-up to scratch there's probably no better team to have a trial against than the Knights and Covell can't wait for the task that's ahead of both himself and the team tomorrow.
"In a trial game you obviously want to see how you stand and who better to test yourself against than the best player in the world," the 24 year old said in reference to Andrew Johns.
"Defensively he's always going to challenge you and hopefully we're up to it."
The defensive line showed some positive signs for 2006 last week as it was good enough to hold out the Bulldogs in a 34-30 victory at Mollymook with Covell playing a starring role scoring a try as well as kicking five goals.
"It's always good to get a couple of goals and points to get the confidence up. Points like that are going to be crucial in games through the year."
Covell has been receiving kicking advice from what some might consider an unlikely source but the former Wests Tiger believes that it's paying massive dividends for him.
"The assistant coach for the Socceroos, Graham Arnold, has been my kicking coach and I've been with him for a couple of years," he said.
"He's been doing some work for a couple of clubs and it's all about how you strike the ball and when you think about it, no-one strikes the ball better than soccer players."
No doubt Cronulla supporters will be hoping that Covell gets plenty of opportunities to rack up the points throughout the season.