Once an NRL pariah in danger of being relocated, Cronulla’s emergence as a rugby league powerhouse on and off the field is complete, according to NRL boss Todd Greenberg.
Even before they waded through the ASADA drama, the struggling Sharks had been pinpointed in some rugby league circles as a vulnerable enough in the heartland to help rugby league expand its borders as far afield as Perth.
The development of the surrounds of Southern Cross Group Stadium, headed up by Cronulla’s board, shored up the Sharks’ future off the field.
And in the years since the club earned the wooden spoon, had coach Shane Flanagan suspended for a season and had 17 players banned by ASADA in 2014 Cronulla has become an onfield success too.
And they can crown the greatest moment in the club’s 50 year history on Sunday, if they beat Melbourne in the grand final to claim their first premiership.
“It is great for them and it is great for their fans,” Greenberg told AAP.
“They should be very proud of their club this week. They have been through some difficult times and clearly it is evident this weekend if you work hard and make sacrifices what can happen.
“I’m not talking about just the players and the coaching staff I am talking about the board and the governance of the club.
“They have done a lot of hard work, people like (chairman) Damian Keogh and the board of directors and (CEO) Lyall (Gorman).
“That has been rewarded this week with a grand final appearance.”
In the lead-up to Sunday’s decider, Greenberg also paid tribute to the Storm, who will play their fifth grand final in 10 years on Sunday, and have established a rugby league bulwark in AFL-obsessed Melbourne.
The Storm play their second grand final, following their 2012 premiership win, since they were torn apart by the 2010 salary cap scandal.
“We have been amazed by the support we have had in Melbourne. In the month of September we have had three sellouts at AAMI Park. It is phenomenal,” Greenberg said.
“That club has done an amazing job in that Melbourne market and they have a unique proposition where they have strong ownership, strong management, a
long term coach who has such great experience and a very serious and very experienced senior leadership team.
“Cooper (Cronk) and Cameron (Smith) deserve such credit for the way that club handles itself on and off the field.”