NRL Grand Final – Sharks v Storm: A love story

I can remember the moment with absolute clarity.  Not the day so much, or the details around it, but that short instant of time when it happened is still a clear snapshot in my mind.  The moment I became a Cronulla-Sutherland supporter.

I have heard it said – or maybe I read it somewhere – that a lot of our choices when it comes to sporting teams are likely to come down to 3 things.  Location, Family and Mates.  Or where you are, who you are and what delinquents you happen to hang out with.

Now, I may live in the UK (for now), but I was born a proud Queenslander, so no guesses whose side I’m on when it comes to Sheffield Shield cricket or SOO league.  (Location)

My Father was born and raised – at least a while – in Salford and the Greater Manchester area before shifting to Australia as a boy ‘£10 Pom’ with his family, berthing up in Geelong in 1952 (an auspicious year for those who know their Cats history.)  Hence, it was locations, both in England and then Victoria, that gave him Manchester United FC and the Geelong Cats.  Obsessions he duly passed on to me and my brother. (Location and Family)

He never lived in Sydney – let alone the Shire – and none of my immediate family ever did.  Nor did any of my mates.  How did it come to this?  Where did a Brisbane/Gold Coast raised boy get any connection to a somewhat small and obscure professional rugby league club operating out of the far reaches of Sydney’s south?

Well, it WAS my Dad. Though not in any intended way. It was pure accident, a fluke of time and place and it has proceeded to lead me on a lifetime rollercoaster of hope, disappointment (lots of that) and, for this week at least, a tantalising glimpse of what could be.

You see, Dad loves his Soccer – must remember to call it ‘football’ when in Britain – and adores his Aussie Rules, but never really took to League.  He shows a passing interest in the Broncos from time to time and will happily watch SOO, but that’s about it.  Always been that way. He’s an ex-Victorian and RL never made it onto the radar.  However, I’m a Queenslander. Born and bred. And when I was growing up, league was THE sport in the South East.  It was played at the schools, Brisbane had a thriving competition with players like Wally Lewis, Gene Miles and Mal Meninga and there was lots of coverage of the NSWRL games, particularly of the QLDers who happened to be playing down there in enemy territory.  Anyway, I digress.

My Dad would occasionally do a shift at the Salvation Army charity shop in my younger days and one Saturday he threw a couple of dollars in the till and brought me home a pair of socks.  Football socks.  Sky blue.  With bands of black and white.  He had no reason to take much notice of the colours.  I think he just saw they were my size and that I might like them.  I was starting to take an interest in footy and maybe he thought they would cultivate that growing enthusiasm.

Well, I loved them. My eight year old self adored those faded, woollen marvels. I wore those socks at every opportunity.  After all, eye-catching colours aside, they were from my hero, my Dad.  A little gift he thought might please me. Down around my sneakers, as I raced around the playground or pedalled my bike up the hill to our house.  At school.  At home.  Everywhere.

Now, remember that moment I mentioned at the start. Well, here it is.  One day I was walking past the new library at school – Ashmore Primary as it happens. I remember it was sunny – generally is in Qld after all – and I was on my own.  A couple of kids I knew were standing outside said library and I, of course, was wearing my treasured socks.

“They’re Cronulla socks! The Sharks!” exclaimed one, pointing at the black, white and blue apparel hugging my ankles.  I stopped short.  I had no idea.  I had asked Dad whose colours they were when he first gave them to me, but he hadn’t been sure. Now I knew.  The Sharks.  That sounded cool.  “I support them” I said, with all the confidence an eight year old can muster and that was that.  I had signed up to a Sharks life.  Right around the very time that Manly (I feel sick) and a certain G. Hartley were consigning my new found team to a dubious – VERY dubious according to some older Sharks I know – defeat in the 1978 grand final.

In those formative years, it was more of a nominal support if anything.  I’d watch them if they happened to be on the telly and check the scores in the paper, but it never had any real feeling to me.  I was a lone Shark at school as the more glamorous clubs like Manly, Canterbury and a powerful Parramatta side were obviously more appealing to my peers.  Besides, Cronulla were not travelling well financially and they certainly weren’t winning much. The 1979 Amco Cup, our only piece of silverware, is something I have only the vaguest memories of.  By 1983, it had become the KB cup and I watched the final – full of hope – in our living room. We lost. To Manly.

1988 was when I knew, though.  The team from the Shire remained unbeaten after round 8, finishing the season as Minor Premiers.  Seventeen, turning eighteen and in my first year at University in Toowoomba, I was caught up in the excitement of it all.  The day of the preliminary final dawned and I was busily making plans to drive my dad’s old car down to Sydney for the grand final the following weekend. We’d come from the clouds that year. It was destiny, surely.  Sharks forever.  Alas, sport doesn’t always do fairy tales though, does it? We were dumped out in a narrow loss to a Balmain side who were trying to complete a fairy tale of their own. They didn’t.

But that was when I knew it was love.  Because love hurts.  Opening your heart to another always carries that risk doesn’t it? You take your chances and give your love. Time passes and the scars fade. They’re always there, but they DO fade.  1999, 2001, 2002 are old wounds. One step away from the big dance each time. Each time, ending in heartbreak and scars of their own.

Now, we’re there.  Finally, after almost 40 years, we are back in the big one. However, there is no destiny. No fairy tale here.  The Storm will have their own stories after all. I desperately want the Sharks to win, but realise only too well that I may be heartbroken again on Sunday. Love can make many promises, but it doesn’t always keep them.  It won’t diminish my feelings for the black, white and blue. It will lead to a fresh scar but it won’t kill my love.

I want the fairy tale though.  I want to believe. I want to see Gal hold the trophy high. I want to laugh and cry in equal measure as I see the boys lap the stadium, soaking up every ounce of love from the longest suffering fans in Australian Rugby League.

On Sunday morning, around 7.30 am UK time, I will walk into the London Temple Walkabout pub and watch my team on the big screen.  I will sit or stand with other sharks fans, far from home and I will wear my jersey and my scarf. And my socks. Can’t forget my socks.

Love you Sharks. And love you Dad for starting me on this journey.

About andrew frame

UK based, Queensland born footy lover. Diehard sharks fan in the NRL. Cats fanatic in the AFL. Cricket tragic with a long suffering wife who just doesn't get the sport obsession at all. :)

Comments

  1. kath presdee says:

    Love it Andy; just love it.

  2. Wonderful stuff Andy – didn’t realise a pair of socks could be so pivotal! No matter where we are in the world on Sunday night / morning, we’ll all be going through the same things. Up the Sharks.

  3. Scott Frame says:

    I think this is simply brilliant. But, I would, wouldn’t I?

    He is my brother, after all.

    Seriously, though, it reads even better after what we’ve all just witnessed.

    At times, love undoubtedly hurts. And yet, in its time, it can deliver a euphoria that can’t be adequately described. And, truth be told, probably can’t be adequately experienced.

    It’s that exceedingly pleasant place where all us Sharkies fans find ourselves right now. At this thoroughly fulfilling juncture in our lifelong journey with the black, blue and white.

    This may not ever be bettered but our shared story will never be over.

    UP, UP, CRONULLA!

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