Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 10: Knights v Sharks – Slaughter

Cronulla Sharks 62 Newcastle Knights 0

Hunter Stadium, Newcastle

Sunday 15th May, 2:00 pm

Paul Macadam

It didn’t feel like a first grade match. The record books will show that Cronulla beat Newcastle by sixty-two points to nil. What they’ll lack is an asterisks mark, of the kind which should punctuate Matt Hayden’s 380 against Zimbabwe. Already demoralised by being on the wrong end of several harrowing scorelines, the Knights provided little in the way of resistance once they fell behind. Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis alone had a higher collective tally of NRL games than their entire starting side. Gulfs in experience and quality were bound to show.

Cronulla, for their part, were ruthless. Representative round arrived is never welcomed by a team who’ve won six in a row, and the first five minutes are riddled with haven’t-played-in-a-fortnight sloppiness. From then on, all but a couple of visits to Newcastle’s defensive half result in a try. The first is the best; Lewis poking a low kick in behind that’s going dead all day, at least until Holmes throws his body skyward and, an inch inside the field of play, grounds with his fingertips. Holmes gets four tries in total, and if not for a half-second of hesitation, he’d have become just the second Shark (joining Andrew Ettingshausen) to score five in a match. After watching his men combine their best and worst halves of the season in one day against Brisbane, Shane Flanagan’s interval message would’ve stressed the importance of not clocking off. Of forming winning habits. A sustained appetite for more, more and more tries. The instructions are followed perfectly.

Compliment showers shouldn’t be allowed to pass without mentioning that this incarnation of the Knights is among the weakest sides of the post-Super League era. To their credit, the Newcastle fans don’t boo their team off the field. Though you wouldn’t blame them for doing so, they recognise that their club’s problems run deeper than seventeen players. The legacy of bumbling, mangled management outlives the owners who embodied it. Years of reversing other peoples’ errors. Constantly playing catch-up. There’s scant room for sentiment in professional sport, and if you can’t find the fun in a record-equalling win then you should probably ditch your club and take up a new interest. But there’s another angle to winning 62-0, and that angle is Dane Gagai in tears at full-time. (It has since emerged that Gagai’s grandmother died on the morning of the game. An investigation into a fan’s racial slur – directed at Gagai – is ongoing).

I went to the 2001 Grand Final; dad having booked tickets in advance based on the not unreasonable hunch that this would be Cronulla’s year. Andrew Johns helped extinguish that dream in the major semi-final, and murdered the Eels one week later in 40 minutes of devastatingly brilliant football. How times change. Only a collapse by the now-embattled Parramatta will spare Newcastle from a second consecutive wooden spoon. Still, the hyper-competitive nature of this league offers more encouragement to those nearer the bottom than the top. It was less than two years ago that the Sharks were in a similarly grim position.

Some matches don’t fit the Five Things We Learned format. My thoughts on the Sharks’ title hopes are no clearer than before. Sorry, no insight there. A chance to take revenge on the silvertails this Saturday. Bigger fish. Up the do-what-you-must Sharks.

Cronulla Sharks 62 (Valentine Holmes 4, Sosaia Feki 3, Luke Lewis 2, Ben Barba, Wade Graham tries, James Maloney 9 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 0.

About Paul Macadam

Songwriter under my own name, drummer for Library Siesta. Newly ecstatic Cronulla tragic who also loves Liverpool because life wasn't meant to be easy. Too slow for the wing, too skinny for the second row.


  1. andy frame says

    Another good write-up Paul.
    There is a problem here though.
    I’m starting to hope.
    It’s just a flicker right now, but the flame is definitely there.
    This is dangerous when you’re a sharks fan.

  2. Thanks Andy! I can relate to the fear of hope, after we’ve been burned by so many near-misses before. 99, 01, 02, 08… just in my time alone. But nobody’s ever won a premiership by keeping expectations modest. We’ve got to allow ourselves to be hopeful. Maybe even delusional. No matter what happens between now and round 26, remember that first half against Brisbane. Remember how we demolished the supposedly nailed-on premiers. Sure, it’ll hurt like all hell if we fall short this year, though despite not being a natural optimist, I’ve recently realised footy is more fun on the dreamer’s side of things. Keep on hoping :)

  3. kath presdee says

    It always hurts when we fall short Paul.

    It always hurts.

    I add 1988 (for reasons that don’t only include the loss against Balmain in the preliminary final) and 1978… although it burns more because of what I’ve been told, rather than what I remember.

  4. Which other reasons did you have in mind? I imagine the minor premiership would be another factor… 1988 and 1999 have a lot of parallels (leading at half-time then losing in the major semi being one). Forgot that we led in the ’78 final, too. Jesus. Gonna stop researching these cases before I talk myself out of this year’s chances!

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