When you look at the history of the game the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks are lucky to be in the competition.
I don’t mean that as an insult. One could argue that the Sharks were brought into the league to reduce the dominance of St George, which had won 11 straight titles.
If the league had had a crystal ball, they would have left that entire southern region of Sydney to one club. Don’t protest too much, Sharks fans. You are lucky to be a club that very few people dislike. We all know the reasons. Up until 2016 you hadn’t won anything. In fact for most of your existence you had struggled to stay afloat.
Okay, you did well early, twice losing grand finals in the 1970s. You were minor premiers in 1988 and lost the 1997 Super League title, a title no-one other than Broncos fans really care for. You blew it in 1999, however, and that had been the case for most of the club’s history.
In 2014 you finished last. The doping scandal wreaked havoc on your season. Fairly or unfairly the club was tainted that year. I’d be surprised if Sharks fans still didn’t hold a grudge over how that scandal was used as a political football.
That scandal may have been a blessing in disguise. It wasn’t right and most likely not fair that it happened, but it did show the club’s true colours. It showed the rugby league and the Australian community the character of your team.
Tough times come and go but tough people are forever. Give the club credit. It has had many tough times and it still stands. The club is tough.
The Sharks rebounded and were close to making it to the title match in 2015. One year later the side would not be denied. No Storm would cloud their vision. They had their eyes on the prize and a will that would not be broken. Even when all seemed lost and Melbourne surged ahead the Sharks stood resolutely.
Yes, it took some brilliance and a thrilling heart-stopping finish, but the club did it. Finally.
The 2017 season continued the trend set from the end of the 1992 and 1993 seasons. No team has gone back to back. Don’t worry, Broncos fans, I hear you, but I’m not counting the 1997 season as it wasn’t a unified competition.
The 2018 season may be the Sharks’ last chance for a title in the immediate future. Most teams have a window. I say most teams – the Roosters will always be there or thereabouts. They just seem to have accountants and the means that other clubs do not.
Sharks fans should not worry. On all accounts the land sale has secured their financial future. Though the club may never be a giant club, it should aim to be a successful club.
Success does not just mean titles or leagues club revenue. Success comes in many forms. What the 2016 season showed was that the Sharks did have a lot of supporters. Yes, they may have come out of the woodwork – that happens – but the club needs to keep them as active supporters.
Only 12,933 fans on average attended the home games at Shark Park. This is not good enough for a defending premiership team. I know Sydney fans don’t travel, but can anyone explain why the Sharks get so little support at their games? Is it the stadium? Is it the kick-off times? Is it the weather?
Not only are the crowds poor for the Cronulla outfit, but the club has failed to capitalise on memberships, with just 15,556 people being active supporters. Not good enough, Cronulla fans. That’s the second lowest of all Sydney clubs and the fourth lowest in the league.
In a perfect world Shark Park would be a brand-new stadium that holds 20,000 to 25,000 people and has a covering that would protect fans from the elements. The club would sell out each week and would have 30,000-plus members.
Obviously this is a pipedream. However, the Shire’s population is estimated at 226,000 people, so turning this population into active fans should be the club’s goal. Getting 10 per cent to 20 per cent of this community to be members secures the club’s future.
Is it possible to turn that pipedream into a reality? If any club can do such a tough task, it is this club. The reason is simple: the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks are tough.