Shaw Cross Sharks head coach Zach Johnson believes his side are on a “different level” as they approach the start of the 2018 season.
The Sharks have been back in pre-season training for a number of weeks as they prepare for the new season.
Johnson, who took over temporarily at the end of last season before being appointed permanently, has praised his team’s new-found mental toughness.
“Pre-season has gone really well, the atmosphere in the squad is the highest it has been for a while,” said Johnson.
“The whole atmosphere has changed throughout the team, as we have tried to focus on making ourselves mentally tougher.
“Last year we were really good at scoring points, and we would either hammer teams or end up losing by only a few points.
“Now I think we have the ability to get into that mental battle in games and start to win the close ones, we are on a different level now.
“The intensity has been second to none, there hasn’t been an easy session where we have just gone quiet.
“We have had a short pre-season so that the intensity starts straight away.”
The Sharks have added to their playing squad with the additions of Shaun Squires and Eddie Medforth.
Squires is a former Dewsbury, Batley and Shaw Cross player and Johnson believes he brings some much-needed experience into the squad.
Medforth is a former teammate of Johnson’s, with the pair previously turning out for Coventry Bears together.
“Shaun Squires has played at Dewsbury and he gives us a real good option out wide,” added Johnson.
“He can also play at full-back, so we also have some utility value with Shaun.
“We have brought in Eddie Medforth, he is a real quality centre who has a lot of power and go forward.
“Both players have lots of experience and we hope the younger lads can learn and develop from them.”
The Sharks kick off their 2018 campaign with a first round Challenge Cup clash against Beverley tomorrow afternoon (2pm).
Johnson is expecting a tough tie as the side from Hull - coached by Hull FC's Scott Taylor - visit Leeds Road.
He said: "We are expecting a tough game, every game this year will be tough.
"No matter who we play this time of year it will be difficult as we are going to be a bit rusty.
"We just want to concentrate on ourselves more than anything, we know what we need to do and we need to how we play.
"I expect it to be tough and be physical, we are confident but we are under no illusions that it is going to be an easy game."
Updated 09:51 - 2 Feb 2018 by Ben McKenna