NRL history was made last night when the Cronulla Sharks broke the longest title drought, beating the Melbourne Storm 14-12.
The pulsating grand final match was held at a capacity ANZ Stadium in an epic and brutal war that showcased nothing but pure heart and passion for the sport. Patient and loyal fans of the sharks have waited for a maiden title since the club’s inaugural season in 1967.
The most deserving of the win is Captain Paul Gallen who is also the captain of the New South Wales Origin team and has dedicated his entire career to the club.
“To all the fans, you’ve waited 50 years for this and to all you former players, guys who busted their backsides for the club, I hope you enjoy it,” he said.
“To all you people back in the Shire, turn your porch lights off because we’re coming home with the trophy!” a triumphant Gallen declared before raising the Provan-Summons trophy.
The result is also a fitting reward for retiring hooker Michael Ennis in his 273rd and final game, while Maloney secured his second title win in his third decider with three different clubs in six years.
Right from the kick-off, Melbourne were ambushed by the Sharks defensive aggression and urgency, combined with the speed and intensity of the forward pack, it disrupted the Storms key players who are usually so dominant in dictating the flow of games.
James Maloney was a crucial figure and showcased composure throughout, leading the Sharks’ attack around the field with an on form kicking and passing game and busting many lines.
One of the highlights was when Cronulla punctured Melbourne’s notable defence as Gallen worked a scrum move from 10 metres out to assist Ben Barba over for an 8-0 lead. Commentators were in awe at the short pass through the scrum, stating that they haven’t seen a play like that in years.
Andrew Fifita will also be praised for a long time to come as he brilliantly wrestled his way past four storm defenders for his side’s second try, freeing his arm and grounding the ball in the 69th minute. This was followed up by a successful conversion, off the boot of Maloney to secure the lead.
“To score the winning try is incredible; I don’t know where it came from. I was just rolling,” Fifita said.
As each team scored two converted tries each, the two point difference could come down to the penalty kick as a result of Marika Koroibete’s high tackle against Chad Townsend in the sixth minute that was put on report.
It was also a massive night for powerhouse Sharks back-rower Luke Lewis as he won the Clive Churchill medal.
The Storm’s defence was incredible and it almost got them to the finish line on top but to win the grand final, they needed more good ball.
The entire game was a first class performance from both sides, and the hunger and intensity was notably showcased through many injuries and bloodshed.
Jack Bird suffered a hyperextended elbow midway through the first half but soldiered on, while winger Sosaia Feki left the field with a leg injury early in the second half.
The Storm lost Kenny Bromwich and Dale Finucane late in the second half due to a concussion.
Fairy tales do come true in the world of Rugby League and for the most deserving, Sharks.
“To all the fans, you’ve waited 50 years for this and to all you former players, guys who busted their backsides for the club, I hope you enjoy it,” said Gallen.