According to Fox Sports today, the future of the Cronulla Sharks might be in doubt.
NRL chief executive David Gallop says he cannot guarantee Cronulla’s future in the competition as the club’s crisis deepens.
The short version is thanks to the Matthew Johns affair, long term Sharks sponsor LG is pulling out, and the club has no long term sponsor beyond that.
I understand the why on the sponsors behalf. But there’s a difference between a sponsor pulling out, and the NRL throwing a club under a truck.
The Sharks have long been on the outer in the NRL. One of the few Sydney based clubs that broke ranks and went with the Super League, there are those with in the NRL who have long waited for the opportunity to put the knife in.
The Sharkies haven’t had the best record in the NSWRL/ ARL/ NRL. Entering the compeition in 67, they’ve made the finals only three times. 73, the classic draw in 78 (lost in the replay) and the one and only Super League grand final. The latter was the only time I watched in person (at the ground) the Sharks play at that level, and sadly they lost.
I probably shouldn’t be a Sharkies fan. My grandfather was one of the founding members of the Eastern Suburbs Rugby League Club (now the Sydney Roosters.) The actual cup awarded in the now abandoned “Premiers Cup” was given to the NSWRL by my grandfather; last I heard one of my uncles was trying to get it back, as it was given on the grounds that it was for the competition, now that they’ve dropped it (in the last 10 years), it belongs in the family.
But there is a reason I’m a sharkies fan. It’s where I grew up. As a kid, I idolized Andrew Ettingshausen, who would often appear to present the trophies at the end of year Little Athletics functions. Indeed one of the last functions when I was in Little Athletics was out on Captain Cook Road at the Cronulla Sharks home ground. I can even remember the music playing: Debbie Harry, I want that man, 1989.
In later years before I left Sydney I’d occasionally find myself at Cronulla home games, or out at the club for a drink. The location was always a little remote, and it was never a Penrith Panthers in terms of the whole “casino” feel, but it was our local football club.
The Sutherland Shire today, even more so since I have left it, is one of the largest local government areas not only in Sydney, but Australia. Over 200,000 people live in the immediate area. The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks are their local team. As many again outside the area, particularly among the massive Shire diaspora support the team.
Sorry NRL, but if you’re going to throw the Sharks under a bus, you can get fucked. It will only cement for many why the AFL has been soooooo much more successful.