The wait for a maiden title continues for long suffering Cronulla fans but North Queensland will dare to dream after their staggering 39-0 NRL semi-final win in Townsville on Saturday night.
The Cowboys booked a grand final qualifier against the Storm in Melbourne next week after finally ending the Sharks’ brave title run in front of 21,683 rabid Townsville fans.
In their 20th anniversary season, North Queensland are on track to qualify for their first grand final since their sole 2005 appearance after ambushing the Sharks.
However, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Cronulla who last made a grand final in 1997 – the longest drought for any team besides Canberra (1994).
And the disgruntled Sharks fans who trudged out of 1300Smiles Stadium did not have to be told that Cronulla have never won a title in their 49-season existence.
It was a remarkable turnaround for the traditionally slow-starting Cowboys, who had conceded the first points and the first try in seven straight games.
In contrast, the resurgent Sharks – the 2014 wooden spooners – had scored the first points in nine of their past 10 games.
North Queensland hit the ground running in Townsville, grabbing a 19-0 halftime lead and never looking back.
Pivot Michael Morgan had beat himself up during the week for not providing enough support for playmaker Johnathan Thurston in a quiet return from an ankle injury in last week’s 16-12 finals loss to Brisbane.
He vented his frustration on the Sharks, opening the scoring before completing a try scoring double in the 46th minute.
Morgan set the tone when he latched onto a Thurston cut-out pass and brought the Townsville fans to their feet by scoring in just the fifth minute.
North Queensland romped to a halftime lead thanks in part to Cronulla’s 16-2 missed tackle count.
The Cowboys kept their perfect finals record in Townsville (6-0) intact.
Cronulla have never won a final outside Sydney.
North Queensland won a season best 17 games this year including a club record 11-game streak.
But there was a debate that North Queensland – who went on a club record 11-game winning run this year – had peaked too early this season.
The win over Cronulla put an end to any doubts over their title credentials.