Why not us?
It’s a curious question for a club, seeking to break Australia’s most famous sporting hoodoo, to be asking. But it’s the catchcry driving Cronulla’s quest for a maiden NRL title.
Drive into the Sutherland-Shire area of Sydney and the saying is plastered across billboards and signage accompanied by pictures of the club’s heroes.
What originated as a rhetorical question posed by senior players in the inner sanctum during a team truth-telling session, has grown to become their slogan and de facto marketing tagline.
While it’s been pilloried in some quarters as corny and passive, to those that matter, the 17 players who will take on North Queensland in Friday’s preliminary final, it makes an important point.
“People see these other sides are doing really well because they have your Thurstons, your Taumalolos, your Cronks, your Smiths, you’ve got that Canberra side that is just rolling, says Sharks fullback Ben Barba.
“I just don’t see why it can’t be us.
“t would be unreal for this area.”
“It started creeping in when we started going on that (15-game) winning run, everyone started saying ‘they should lose this next game’. So we sort of said ‘why can’t we keep winning?’. Nothing says we can’t win it. It stuck with us.”
So here are the Sharks, one game away from a grand final, and you can’t blame the blue, black and white faithful for daring to dream.
After 50 years without a premiership, losing their first grand final appearance in 1973, drawing with Manly in the 1978 decider and then losing the replay three days later, winning the 1988 minor premiership and then going out in straight sets, falling short in the 1997 Super League final – Sharks diehards have had to wear a lifetime of heartache and Harold Holt jokes.
“Why can’t we do it? They’ve been minor premiers, they’ve made grand finals. It’s just something different,” prop Sam Tagataese says.
“We believe we can do it. It’s just twisting the words – I believe we can do it.”
So Shane Flanagan has them believing and in recent weeks the coach has been bringing in some of the club’s greats to address the players and instil in them the depth of their passion that comes with half a century of falling short.
He invited the likes of former halfback and Rothmans Medal winner Barry Russell, who spoke of his lifetime of regrets at not doing that little bit extra to win the club’s maiden title.
“They’ve come in and they’ve been really passionate. I think it’s put a bit of passion into the boys and it’s stuck in them,” prop Matt Prior said.
“(Russell) just said he wishes he could go back and just could’ve done something a little bit more, done something better, because he feels like he’s regretted that moment ever since. That’s coming from a bloke who’s 50-years-old and still looks back.
“It resonates with us, we don’t want to be in that position in 20 years thinking ‘what if we had done this?’. We don’t want to be like that.”
So why not Cronulla?