Dear valued Sponsors and Members,
On behalf of everyone at the Sharks I want to extend a big THANK YOU for your commitment, engagement, support and passion during what has been a challenging year for our great club.
In life and especially in sport you find out who your ‘real’ friends are in tough and challenging times, and whilst a couple of people have shown their ‘true colours’ I have been very impressed and inspired by the amazing loyalty shown by the vast majority of our sponsors, members and fans.
After a year in which we came within a game of the Grand Final qualifier and our NSW Cup team claimed the premiership, very disappointingly none of our five Cronulla Sharks teams earned the right to play in finals football in 2014 which is not acceptable.
The other very disappointing aspect of the season was the number of times we received negative media publicity for poor behaviour and I sincerely apologise for this aspect. Successful clubs are built on a foundation that has a very strong culture as well as character and to ensure we do achieve the success I know we are capable of, we must work both hard and smart to achieve success. Steps are already in place to support this as a priority for the start of training for the 2015 season.
Individually, a number of players achieved personal milestones during the year, I am pleased to provide details of those achievement;
NRL Milestone Games
David Fifita, Michael Lichaa, Penani Manumalealii, Junior Roqica, Fa’amanu Brown, Jacob Gagan, Valentine Holmes, Sione Masima, Scott Sorensen, Patrice Siolo
Blake Ayshford, Daniel Holdsworth, Matt Prior, Tinirau Arona, Pat Politoni, Tim Robinson
50 Games for Cronulla Sharks
Sam Tagataese, Andrew Fifita, Jeff Robson, Todd Carney
50 NRL Games
Siosaia Vave, Tinirau Arona
100 Games for Cronulla Sharks
Isaac De Gois, John Morris
100 NRL Games
150 NRL Games
300 NRL Games
Paul Gallen (241 Games for the Sharks) Second most capped Shark of all time.
Michael Gordon – 1000+ NRL career points
Round 16 win vs Brisbane Broncos – second best come from behind win in the clubs history – 22 points
Round 17 win vs Sydney Roosters - best come from behind win in the clubs history – 24 points
State of Origin Teams
Paul Gallen – NSW State of Origin Team – Game 1, 2, 3 – Captain//First series win in 8 years//Wally Lewis Medal Winner
Luke Lewis – NSW State of Origin Team – Game 1, 2, 3
Valentine Holmes – QLD Under 20’s State of Origin Team (May 2014)
City/Country Origin Teams
Andrew Fifita - NSW City Origin
Michael Lichaa - NSW City Origin
David Boyle – Strength and Conditioning Coach for NSW Country Origin
Paul Gallen (Vice Captain) – Kangaroos Squad - Australia vs. New Zealand (2nd May 2014)
Ricky Leutele – Samoan Test Team Selection - Pacific International - Samoa vs. Fiji (3rd May 2014)
Penani Manumalealii – Samoan Test Team Selection - Pacific International - Samoa vs. Fiji (3rd May 2014)
Sam Tagataese – Samoan Test Team Selection - Pacific International - Samoa vs. Fiji (3rd May 2014)
Junior Roqica – Fiji Bati Test Team Selection – 2014 Pacific International - Fiji vs. Samoa (3rd May 2014)
NSW Cup Honours
Nathan Gardner – NSW Cup Representative side – Captain
Tony Herman – Assistant Coach for NSW Cup Representative side
Valentine Holmes – NYC Team of the Year
Off Field Achievements
John Morris - Master of Education in Sports Coaching
Ben Chahoud – NYC Academic Team of the Year
Michael Gordon – Ken Stephen Medal Nominee
Connor Tracey - NSWCHS team //Australian Schoolboys
Jayden Walker - NSWCHS team //Australian Schoolboys
Ashleigh Nisbet - NSW CCC //Australian Schoolboys
Jayden Brailey - NSW CCC //Australian Schoolboys
Olivia Herman – State of Origin 2 Ball person
I would also like to thank and congratulate James Shepherd for his tireless efforts this year, especially when taking over as Interim Head Coach. His work with the players saw the NRL team competitive right to the end of the competition. Even though we were down on playing numbers, we weren’t down on heart or commitment. It is interesting to note that the team that lost by a field goal in extra time against the Cowboys in Townsville had a total salary cap value of just $1.8m (NRL cap $6.1m). It is also interesting to note that on average for season 2014, we only had 53% salary cap availability of our top side.
Last week we announced our new State Cup partnership with foundation club the Newtown Jets. It was disappointing that Melbourne chose to end our successful partnership, however we are all excited about our new arrangement and having had the pleasure of previously working with the passionate footy people from the Jets, I have no doubt we will have a strong win/win relationship.
Darren Mooney has worked extremely hard to retain the players that we wanted to keep throughout our various grades as well as sign Michael Ennis and Mitch Brown. Hopefully with the approval of the NRL, Shane Flanagan will return later this week and we will be in a position to further bolster our playing ranks.
You are now well aware of the finalisation of the ASADA investigation, and whilst the players were faced with an extremely difficult decision, I am sure that everyone is pleased that the matter has now been finalised and we look forward to having our players back at training later this year on November 22. Much work has been done and will continue to be done in putting the proper governance measures in place to ensure situations like this never occur again.
I am sure that you would appreciate considerable planning is already underway to make certain we have a much better season, both on and off the field in 2015. This week we announced the appointment of Andrew Gray to our newly created position of NRL Physical Performance Manager, with Andrew a local person with a very strong background in the NRL and other elite sports.
A crucial part of our DNA moving forward will be the development of the greater percentage of senior NRL squad players from the clubs’ junior player development and recruitment programs.
To ensure we have the right and consistent focus in this all important area, later this year John Morris will join us in a Junior Development High Performance Coaching role. As you may be aware, earlier this year John completed his Masters in Elite Coaching at Sydney Uni. His final project for the course was the development of a model for Rugby League Elite Junior Development and he used our current programs as the foundation to create a new and exciting model moving forward and one that he can implement once he starts in his new position.
Just after my last letter we received the exciting news that four local Junior League players had been selected in the Australian Schoolboys team. These players help form a great platform for John to work with. Later this year the boys will head off overseas on their tour of Europe and we wish them every success.
Another important aspect of our DNA is community and we will be opening a new community hub here at Remondis Stadium. This will enable our great community team to better cement the vital link between our Club and our various community partners. We are also very excited that this new hub will help facilitate many new and innovative programs that aim to deliver outcomes that make a real difference. To date this year our community team have organised 661 player appearances for 1,761 hours (a new Club record).
The Welfare and Education aspects of professional sport are becoming more and more important and we will budget to increase our spending on resources to ensure that programs are included in each players weekly training programs. I was pleased to hear the senior player’s immense disappointment that we failed to have anyone named in the 2014 NRL Academic Team of the Year and this will most certainly be a goal for 2015 and beyond.
Recently we had the great pleasure of hosting the reunion of the 1994 premiership winning Reserve Grade and Presidents Cup teams. There was a wonderful gathering of almost played involved from these two teams and you could ‘feel’ the camaraderie, enjoyment and strong bond between them.
Names like Raper, Rogers, Peachey, Dykes, Coleman, Porter and Ritson are synonymous with the Sharks and as we head towards our 50th birthday in 2017 it is essential that we have strong engagement with all players and officials who have had a role in creating the amazing foundation of our great club.
This year, for the first time ever, all the Junior League Grand Finals were played on Remondis Stadium. I watched a number of the games and was impressed by the standard of the players and the spirit in which the games were played. We are extremely fortunate to have very hard working and committed people involved at all levels of the Junior League and we look forward to growing our relationship with them next year and beyond. Thanks also to everyone involved in our Referees Association and for the great work they do.
Our sponsorship and membership teams have again worked very hard in season 2014 with new records achieved in membership numbers (11,609) and revenue ($1.45m) along with sponsorship ($5.6m). Thanks again to all our very special sponsors and members for your extremely committed investment in our great club.
Since the day I arrived at the Sharks I have been impressed by the passion that our supporters have for the Club. I am lucky to experience and feel this passion firsthand at home games, sponsor events, Junior Reps, Junior League, Community Events and activities such as Junior Jaws.
I wanted to share some of my recent experiences away from Remondis Stadium to show how far and wide this passion exists.
When we went to Bathurst for the game against the Panthers we were invited to Bathurst RSL for dinner. They asked if it was possible for the boys to sign a ‘few’ autographs after dinner which was certainly no problem. After dinner I went outside to check on arrangements for the signing session and was blown away to see that the ‘few’ was at least 300. It was very easy to see the excitement of all in attendance and as always I was impressed by the number of families present, with almost everyone having Cronulla gear on!
Waiting in the line with his parents I spotted a boy with a broken arm and went up to say hello. His name was Harry, with his family explaining that they had come to Sydney for the Family Fun Day at Remondis Stadium vs the Knights, however the day before Harry fell and broke his arm while at Darling Harbour which meant they didn’t get to the game on the Sunday.
I wanted to make up for them missing the game and asked who his favourite player was, he said Paul Gallen. I explained that unfortunately Paul wasn’t playing in Bathurst and therefore wasn’t there. At this point his sister revealed that Harry had a pet lamb called Paul Gallen, showing me a photograph on her phone. I reached for my mobile, called Paul and said that whilst I know he had recently captained the Blues to a series win over Queensland, he was an even bigger celebrity in Bathurst and had a pet lamb named after him!!
Paul happily talked with Harry for a few minutes. When they finished I invited Harry to be ball boy at the game the next day and he did an outstanding job. Afterwards he and his family helped us sing ‘Up Up Cronulla’ loudly and proudly after our great win. Also while in Bathurst I was very lucky to spend some time in our merchandise van, meeting many fantastic Sharks fans.
When we were in Auckland for the Warriors game I was at the ground early for our Holden Cup match and noticed a young man sitting with his mates, proudly wearing a Shark ‘onesie’ and holding a sign ‘IN GAL WE TRUST’. I had to explain that unfortunately we had to send Gal home early that morning with a very bad dose of the flu. Naturally he was disappointed, but I said I would get Gal to sign a photo of him in his Shark ‘onesie’ and holding his sign. I sent the picture to Gal, he sent me a text when he arrived at the airport and I read the text out to ‘Shark Boy’ as we called him. After the game he joined us in the dressing room and as always the players were great with him and his mates.
About 2 months before our match against the Storm I received a letter from a mum in Wodonga explaining that her daughter Zoey was a mad Sharks fan and asking if it was possible for some of the boys to sign a birthday card for her. Signing a card wasn’t a problem and I said that we would be happy to also catch up with her at the Melbourne game.
When the family called on game day I was very impressed to see Zoey sitting in her Cronulla jersey flanked by her parents, who were both Storm members, sitting amongst a large group of Melbourne members.
After the game, a loss to the Storm, I invited Zoey and her parents into the dressing room to meet the players. Paul Gallen was one of the players who signed the birthday card and as always he was happy to chat with Zoey and have some photos taken. I organised for Paul to give Zoey his playing shorts as a special memory of the night. Zoey was blown away.
Finally, at Townsville, the night before our game I met Brenden and some friends. Brenden is a fanatical Sharks man, while his mates support the Cowboys and Broncos. They all work in the mines at Mount Isa and had travelled 900km to watch the game. Like all of us who watched or attended the Sharks game in Townsville that night, he was very proud of the effort from the team and was thrilled with the opportunity to come into the dressing sheds and meet the players. A couple of days later I received an email from Brenden advising me that he and his mates will be heading to Remondis Stadium next year to watch his beloved Sharks play.
These stories are just a small sample of the pride, passion and loyalty that exists for the Sharks right across Australia and into New Zealand.
As I said in my last letter, sport is about hopes and dreams. Next year I hope, actually I know, we will have a ‘winning’ season, both on and off the field. I will keep my dream to myself but I am sure it is the same as everyone who has supported this great club since 1967.
Sometimes in sport we complicate things, so I will leave you with a picture of Thomas taken after our stunning comeback over the Roosters. There is something in the innocence and clarity of children, but something very true.
Thanks again, and as always.
UP UP CRONULLA!!