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The forgotten players: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

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Roar Guru
2nd January, 2021
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This is the 23rd article in the ongoing series where we remember some of the forgotten players from your favourite club.

The Sharks joined the League in 1967 at the same time as the Penrith Panthers. Just to illustrate how hard is to gain enough momentum to win a premiership, the Sharks and the Panthers have now played a combined total of 108 seasons, and have only won three premierships between them in that time.

Over the years 542 players have represented Cronulla with many celebrated names among them. Players like Paul Gallen, Andrew Ettingshausen, David Peachey, Wade Graham, Mitch Healy, Steve Rogers, Jonathan Docking, Greg Pierce, Matt Rogers, Martin Lang and Rick Bourke are all legends of the club.

But here’s a team made up of Sharks players who may have slipped your mind:

1. Gordon Abercrombie
A speedy player who was also a very handy winger, Abercrombie came from the Wollongong competition, and made his first-grade debut for the Sharks in 1967, going on to play 52 first-grade games for the club over the next three seasons.

2. Brett Howland
Big and very fast, Howland knew the way to the try line racking up 49 tries in his 110-game first-grade career. A Cronulla junior, he made his debut for the club in 1997 and went on to play 68 first-grade games for the Sharks over the 1997 to 2000 seasons. He then headed to the Bulldogs in 2001 and later had three seasons with the Panthers.

3. Richie Barnett
A versatile outside back, Barnett joined the Sharks from the New Zealand competition in 1994 and played 67 games for the club over the next four years before moving on to the Roosters. He finished his career in England, eventually retiring due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Barnett played 26 Tests for New Zealand and captained his country on many occasions.

4. Paul Franze
Franze was a Knights junior who represented Australia at junior level in both League and Union. He moved to the Sharks in 2002 and soon made first grade, going on to play 29 games at the top level for the club. He then went to Penrith for the 2005 season. From 2006 he spent some time in Europe playing both League and Union. He also played one league Test for Italy, running in three tries.

5. Darren Albert
A Newcastle Knights legend, and the scorer of “that try”, Albert was one of the fastest wingers the game has ever seen and scored 165 tries in his 230 games at the top level. He came to the Sharks as a 30-year-old in 2006 after a four-year stint with St Helens and played 23 games for the Sharks that year in what was his final season in the top grade. There are a dozen or more worse players than Albert to run out on the wing for Australia over the years.

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6. John Monie
Hailing from Woy Woy, Monie was a very good player but an even better coach, winning premierships both in Australia and England with the clipboard. He joined the Sharks in 1968 and played 48 games for the club over the next three seasons, running in ten tries including four in one match. He entered the coaching big time in 1984 with Parramatta, going on to coach over 450 games at the top level across five teams both in Australia and England with an overall win ratio of 65 per cent. He also coached France in seven Tests.

7. Blaine Stanley
Stanley came from the NSW country to join Cronulla in 1998 and went on to play 28 games with the club over the next three years. A clever player and a handy goalkicker, he returned to the country after a relatively unsuccessful season with Souths in 2002.

8. Tiaan Strauss
Strauss had a long and successful career in South African rugby union, playing 15 Tests for his country and 156 matches for Western Province, before joining the Sharks in 1996. He played 14 games for the club over the next two seasons before then returning to Rugby with the NSW Waratahs and going on to play 11 Tests for the Wallabies, including the 1999 Rugby World Cup final.

9. Brian Noble MBE
Noble was an absolute legend of the game in England, and his only time away from home was a brief seven-game stint with the Sharks in 1985 during the English offseason. He played over 400 games at the top level in his 17-year career, as well as 11 Tests for his country. He then went on to coach 325 top-level games in England, as well as 14 Test matches.

10. Grahame Bowen
Although a Sharks junior, the late Grahame Bowen began his career with the Dragons in 1967 and went on to establish himself as a very good front-rower. He then transferred to the Sharks in 1973 and played 29 games for the club over the next two years before retiring from the game at the age of 28. He will be remembered for his outstanding performance against Manly in the Sharks 1973 grand final loss.

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11. Steeve Kneen
A weapon by any standard in any era, Kneen played the game on the edge and often fell foul of both referees and the judiciary, resulting in some lengthy suspensions during his career. A Cronulla junior, he made his debut for the club in 1976 and went on to play 87 games for the club over the next seven years. He was also selected in the 1978 Kangaroo Team to tour England but didn’t feature in the Test matches. Wild, tough and talented.

12. Cameron Ciraldo
Ciraldo was big and mobile with plenty of talent, but like so many players, had his career development hampered by injury. He made first-grade with the Sharks in 2005 and played 19 games for the club across the next three seasons before transferring to the Knights. He also played seven Tests for Italy. He retired at the end of the 2016 season and is now an assistant coach at Penrith.

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(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

13. Graeme Sams
The late Graeme Sams was an exceptional player and a Sharks junior who began life in first grade with the club in 1967 as a centre before making the successful transition to lock forward. He played 70 games for the Sharks over the next four years before moving up the road to the Dragons, where injuries limited his time in first-grade. He then finished his career with the Sharks playing 11 first-grade games across the 1975 to 1977 seasons.

14. Pat Gibson
A hooker from the NSW country, Gibson played 30 first grade games for the Sharks over the 2002 to 2004 seasons before returning to his home town of Manildra after failing to win a further contract.

15. Vince Farrer
An English forward who could play anywhere in the pack, the late Vince Farrer played at the top level for over 20 years, retiring at the age of 38. His only experience in Australia came in 1974 when he played 18 games for the Sharks. He also played Tests for both England and Great Britain.

16. George Taylforth
A St George junior, Taylforth headed to the Bulldogs to secure a first-grade berth after playing three years of second grade. A very good forward and accurate goal kicker, Taylforth had five successful years with the Bulldogs before transferring to the Sharks in 1970, going on to play 35 first-grade games for the club over the next three seasons.

17. Craig Greenhill
A big, bruising forward, Greenhill played over 200 games at the top level in his 11-year career. Hailing from the Brisbane competition, he got his start in first grade with the Sharks in 1994 and played 55 games for the club over the next five years. He then headed to Penrith before finishing his career in England. He also played seven Origins for QLD, including one Super League Origin, and three Super League Tests for Australia. He has the distinction of being the first player sent off in State of Origin when he was marched in Game 2 of the 1996 season.

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Some other Sharks players who may jog your memory are winger Ray Corcoran, centre Bob Wear, prop forward Gary Stares, second-rower Erroll Hillier and halfback Stuart Topper.