Unfortunately club loyalty isn’t what it used to be, and both the salary cap and the search for opportunity mean that players change clubs regularly.
Sometimes fans are happy to see a player go, but losing a club favourite not only can be gut-wrenching but can harm the team’s chance of success. It’s even worse when you see that player lining up for the opposition.
In this series I’ll pick a team of the best players who got away from each club since 2000. The only criteria are that the player named must have made his debut for the club, left after 2000 and then played with another NRL club rather than just retiring or heading to the ESL
Today, the Cronulla Sharks.
Details in brackets are the year the player debuted for the Sharks and the number of games played for the club.
1. David Peachey (1994, 202 games)
He was a great servant of the Sharks, easily one of the best attacking fullbacks of the modern game, a club legend and a prolific try scorer. The Sharks let him go at the ripe old age of 35 when he was well past his best, and he finished his career with Souths.
2. David Simmons (2003, 112 games)
He was a speedy winger often hampered by injury who headed to Penrith after seven unremarkable years with the Sharks. He was just a good club player.
3. Russell Richardson (1996, 91 games)
He was a high-quality centre who played his best football while at Cronulla, injuries permitting. He joined Souths in 2002 when they re-entered the NRL, but his body wasn’t what it used to be by the time he donned the red and green.
4. Beau Scott (2005, 28 games)
A fierce competitor who really disliked the opposition, he had just two years with the Sharks before heading to the Dragons in 2007 to build his career as a ruthless henchman. Every team needs a Beau Scott.
5. Blake Ferguson (2009, 42 games)
Ferguson was an instant success after making his debut as a 19-year-old and topped the club’s try-scoring list in his first season. He activated an escape clause to leave the club in 2011 following Ricky Stuart’s resignation as Cronulla coach, joined Canberra and went on to have quite an interesting career. He should have been a keeper for the Sharks.
6. Adam Dykes (1995, 129 games)
Dykes was a junior star made good and was controversially signed by Parramatta in 2002 after a stellar 2001 season, where he won the Dally M award for five-eighth of the year. He was a big loss for the Sharks at the time, but after a run of injuries he never really produced his best form at Parramatta and ultimately returned to the Sharks in 2005.
7. Chad Townsend (2011, 146 games)
Townsend has actually left the club twice. He first departed after the 2012 season when he joined the Warriors for a couple of years before returning home in 2016 just in time to be part of the Sharks’ first-ever premiership-winning team. Inconsistent form in 2021 saw him leave for the Cowboys via a brief stay with the Warriors, and the Sharks’ loss has been the Cowboys’ gain.
8. Martin Lang (1996, 109 games)
The human wrecking ball put his body on the line time and time again for the Sharks before following his father and coach, John Lang, to the Panthers in 2002, winning a premiership in 2003. There was no point in the Sharks trying to keep him once daddy headed west.
9. Matt Hilder (2003, 81 games)
A versatile player, Hilder went from the Cronulla bench in 2006 to starting five-eighth with the Titans in their inaugural game in 2007.
10. Keith Galloway (2003, 37 games)
Galloway played first grade for Cronulla as a 17-year-old schoolboy and was a regular on the bench for the Sharks for the next couple of years until being signed by Wests Tigers in 2006. He went on to become a Wests stalwart and played for both his state and country. How did the Sharks get this one so wrong?
11. Tyson Frizell (2011, 12 games)
He played first grade at just 19, and although he looked to have promise, he was lured to the Dragons in 2013, from where he launched his representative career. The Dragons got under the Sharks’ guard with this one.
12. Nathan Long (1994, 139 games)
Long was a strong performer for the Sharks, averaging over 17 games per season in the top grade during his eight years with the club. He probably regrets transferring to the Northern Eagles in 2002 – who didn’t? – but he wasn’t a significant loss for Cronulla.
13. Tyrone Peachey (2013, seven games)
A nephew of David Peachey, but with just one-tenth of the talent, Tyrone showed a lot of promise both in the Sharks NSW Cup team and the NRL when he got his chance in 2013. He was snapped up by Penrith in 2014 but never really reached his potential.
There were some quality Sharks who slipped through the net, but more than a few were past their use-by dates when they left the club. Of the remainder, Beau Scott, Blake Ferguson, Keith Galloway and Tyson Frizell were probably the players the Sharks wished they’d hung on to.