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Draw critics won't faze Talakai, Sharks ahead of NRL litmus test

Scott Bailey -

Cronulla forward Siosifa Talakai has admitted the Sharks must prove to themselves they are the real deal, conceding they have achieved nothing in recent years.

Long-derided for being the beneficiaries of an easier NRL draw, Cronulla face Melbourne, the Sydney Roosters and Penrith in the next three weeks.

Coach Craig Fitzgibbon has already made clear the stretch will not define his season, but internally Sharks players are viewing Saturday night's top-of-the-table clash with the Storm as a marker for where they stand.

Finalists in each of the past two seasons under Fitzgibbon, Cronulla have been beaten 54-10 and 34-18 in their last two visits to Melbourne.

But the similar Sharks group appear to be coming of age this year, winning seven of their first eight games to sit first on the ladder.

"We don't really have to prove anything the comp or to anyone else," Talakai told AAP.

"But we need to prove it to ourselves that we are up there with the top teams.

"We're happy with where we are, but we haven't done jack s*** to be honest. We're still not satisfied. We're still yet to prove what sort of club we are.

"We've worked so hard during the pre-season for the last couple of years but we don't play to our potential during the season.

"This year we've worked harder than we've ever had to work, and we owe it to ourselves."

Talakai and several other Sharks made clear on Tuesday they were not interested in external talk around their draw.

But through no fault of their own, it is likely to persist.

So far this year, their only match against a current top-eight team was their 25-6 win over Canterbury in round two.

The eighth-placed Bulldogs are also the only current top-eight side the Sharks play twice this year.

"We hear that sort of chatter, but again, we're not too fazed by it," Talakai said.

"A lot of people say it and everyone will have their own opinion. I couldn't really care. It's more internally.

"We just focus on what we need to do. What our roles are and what we need to execute. Week by week, build it up each and every week."

Regardless, Cronulla players are confident they have a style of football regardless of opponent.

They rank first across the NRL in defence and second in attack, busting the most tackles in the NRL and missing the fourth least.

"We definitely feel like we know our style of football and how we want to play," hooker Blayke Brailey said.

"We know where we want to attack and we know we've got points in us no matter what.

"And we just keep working on our defence. The best defensive sides win the competition, so we know we need to be top three or four in that."

Scott Bailey - AAP

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