Less than seven days away before Craig Fitzgibbon names his first team list for the season, Nicho Hynes has praised a teammate of his who is currently battling for a spot in the back-line.

Struggling to find game time at NRL level in the past two seasons, 2024 may be Kayal Iro's time to shine. The NSW Cup Player of the Year in 2022 and two-time member of the NSW Cup Team of the Year, Iro has been battling with Siosifa Talakai during the pre-season for a spot in the centres alongside Jesse Ramien.

A Cooks Islands international, Iro has been biding his time in reserve grade, but this season will likely mark his last in Sharks colours if he cannot break into the first-grade team.

Off-contract at the end of the season, he has been continually linked with a move to the Super League, whilst rival NRL clubs would likely recruit him due to his outstanding potential.

Aiming to freshen up the club's back-line, teammate Nicho Hynes has complimented Iro and is looking forward to playing alongside him on the NRL field in the near future if he is given the opportunity.

"He's pre-season's been unreal. He's nipping at everyone's heels in the backline, and he's a great player," Hynes said.

"It shows in his performances each and every year in reserve grade, so no doubt if he gets his opportunity, he's going to be looking to hold onto that spot.

"I'm excited for him to get a game in or two again this year, and it's building depth for us, it's building hunger for the players to keep their spots, and it's building hunger for players to their pitiful spots.

"It's all healthy (competition), and it's a good spot for us to be in."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 18: Kayal Iro of Cook Islands scores a try during the round 1 Rugby League World Cup 9s match between Tonga and Cook Islands at Bankwest Stadium on October 18, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Kayal Iro's inability to break into the NRL side further illustrates the quality of depth the Cronulla Sharks currently have.

Kade Dykes, Daniel Atkinson, Siteni Taukamo, Samuel Stonestreet, Tuku Hau Tapuha and Billy Burns are just some of the other players that could easily find game time at other teams, but due to the club's depth, they will likely spend the majority of the season in reserve-grade.

Dale Finucane and Cameron McInnes are slowly hitting the backend of their careers, while several squad members are off-contract and could land elsewhere next year.

Speaking about the depth, Hynes believes this could be one of the last seasons the club has to try to win the premiership.

"It is (crunch time for us), and everyone knows that," Hynes added.

"There are going to be some players coming off contract over the next year or two, so it's going to be a year where you're going to have to fight and fight hard, to get in the eight. And to fight for your contract.

"We're in a really good spot with a lot of depth, and the hunger that's come back after the last couple of years is unbelievable.

"The penny has dropped for a lot of us and we're not going to be there to just make finals - we want to go further, and hopefully we can do that this year."