After watching Johnathan Thurston break North Queensland’s title drought, Wade Graham couldn’t help but think that could have been Cronulla bursting rugby league’s most famous hoodoo.
When Thurston slotted that now-famous field goal in their 17-16 grand final triumph over Brisbane, and snap their 20-year premiership-less streak, Graham was left to dwell on lost opportunities.
Going into their 50th season, Cronulla are yet to put their hands on the Provan-Summons trophy.
After winning seven of their last nine regular round games, the Sharks emerged as late-season smokeys.
That was also genuine belief amongst the playing group that it could finally be their year, until the Cowboys inflicted a painful 39-0 loss on them in the semi-finals.
Graham says the disappointment of their exit still stings after working themselves into such strong form.
“It took a while (to come to terms with the finals exit), it was disappointing, but you can’t dwell on those things too long because footy is a hard enough game as it is,” Graham said.
“It was disappointing because as a club, at the back end of last year, we played really well, to bow out like that was not ideal.
“There was definitely disappointment to go out like that, but this is 2016.”
The Sharks will be out for a modicum of revenge when they face the Cowboys to open their campaign in Townsville on Saturday night.
At the forefront of the Shark’s minds is bursting out of the blocks, after their 0-4 start to last year cost them a top four spot and ultimately a better shot at the title.
“The competition is so hard and to start the season 0-4, we were chasing our tails the whole season,” Graham said.
“We’re looking to get off to a much better start than that. Hopefully we’ve learnt some lessons from that.”