This wasn’t how the first game of 2012 was supposed to be for the Sharks. It was supposed to be a celebration, a happy day filled with promise, where the marquee signings are paraded for the whole league to see, for them to know that maybe it’s time to put the light on for Harold Holt.
Instead it is filled with emotion and uncertainty. The players honor the sacked coaches and trainers, bearing messages of support on their armbands. Shark Park is full of supporters facing the same uncertainty as the players, wondering of this is the last time they’ll see their team this way again. The club is tearing itself apart from the inside, and if ever the players were to make a statement then the time is now.
The Titans are the ones who will bear the brunt of the fury of Cronulla, the fury of the crowd and the fury of the players. The game is free flowing and intense, with both sides stringing together some nice passages of play without landing the knockout blow. The Sharks are breathing fire at the moment, fuelled by emotion and rage. It takes a while, but they are the first to score, as Matt Wright flies above the Titan defense.
The crowd bellows at this vindication of their anger, as if the Wright try wasn’t scored against the Titans, but against the NRL and ASADA and the board that sent Stuart Flanagan away. They cheer every Paul Gallen charge, every Todd Carney attack. This is an 18th man for the Sharks, a ravenous ally who will yell and shout until their voices desert them.
The first half is a tough slog, every tackle a battle and every meter hard won. The people of the Shire rise as one and applaud their boys as they leave the field. The second half sees a departure from the script. The Titans are full of running, and the Sharks are looking flat. David Mead flies above the pack for an Aidan Sezer kick and scores.
But Cronulla find a second wind, mainly on the back of the charges of Andrew Fifita, the brash front rowers bullocking charges bending the Gold Coast line whenever he carts the ball up. It comes as a surprise to nobody when it is he who runs a nice line off John Morris and scores under the sticks. He throws up five fingers, in support of the five scapegoats.
But the Titans won’t lie down, and they won’t stop coming. Sezer puts up a kick that gets higher than Bob Marley, and the kick dribbles about until Dave Taylor, who has been unsighted to this point, grasps in his massive paws and scores. Sezer lines up the kick, drills it, and curses when it drifts away.
The Titans try their best, but the Sharks are gritty and tough, as they always have been, even during the lean years. There is one last raid, after the siren, and Albert Kelly puts a cross kick over for his speed men. But Beau Ryan punches the ball out of play, and the crowd roars as it as roared all night, but as it has never roared before.
The game is won, and the club will continue to tear itself apart from the inside. More blood will be spilt before this mess is resolved, but not today. Today is a win and nothing else, and the crowd rises one last time for their Sharks. Perhaps it will be a very different Cronulla team when next they are seen.
Nathan Hindmarsh Medal:
3 – Paul Gallen
2 – Andrew Fifita
1 – Aidan Sezer
Do me a massive favor and visit my blog http://sportssermon.wordpress.com. Or follow me on Twitter @campo37. Both are free of all performance enhancing drugs.