Although unable to secure the two competition points against the Raiders on Sunday evening, the Sharks lost no fans in what was a gritty round one display.
While the locals urged the Cronulla side on in search of a win, the night also confirmed that support for the Sharks side extends well beyond the parameters of the Sutherland Shire.
Matt Roberts – a 43-year-old Tennis scout and devout Sharks fan from Alice Springs – made the trip to Remondis Stadium to watch the Sharks clash with the Raiders.
In between running the Tennis Australia Talent Search Program alongside the NT Institute of Sport, Matt has provided fostered care to 13 boys since the year 2000 – stepping in to lend his support to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
While Matt is just one of the many Sharks supporters scattered right around the country - and the world - he says he makes the 6000km round trip as often as possible in an effort to cheer on his side in the flesh.
“I came to my first game here in 1979, and I’ve loved the Sharks ever since,” he said.
“We come to Remondis Stadium every year. We try and get down twice a year if we can.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted tonight, but we’ll keep backing them all the way.”
Having supported the Sharks since the time he was seven years old, Matt is now doing his best to raise the foster children as parochial Sharks fans.
Sharks' Hooker Michael Ennis meets a young fan
“For all but two of them it’s their first ever time here, so it has obviously been a great experience just to see all their heroes play and to come all this way,” he said.
“You’d be surprised how many people we’ve converted to Cronulla supporters in Alice Springs.”
After the match, Matt and his boys were granted access to the Sharks dressing room, and he says that he and the kids were taken aback in what was truly an unbelievable and a humbling experience.
Ben Barba greets a new Sharks Supporter
“It’s crazy because they’re usually such crazy kids – and now they’re so nervous,” he said.
“It means everything to them. We were riding every tackle and every run today.
“It just meant so much for them to be here. Just to be here is a great thing, and we’ll be back next year.”