Preston Cambell Escapes  - NRL  Sharks v Penrith at Shark Park, Saturday July 14th 2001. Photographed on Colour Neg by Colin Whelan © Action Photographics

#TBT - Sharks vs Panthers

July 14, 2001: Cronulla played host to an out-of-sorts Penrith side in front of 8,035 supporters.

Running out comfortable 42 to 10 point victors, the win was the fourth in a seven-game streak, coinciding with the club's charge towards the 2001 finals series.

Fan-favourite Preston Campbell starred on that night, scoring two tries and converting two others.

Walking away from the clash with a personal haul of 12 points, Campbell did his Dally M Medal hopes no harm in what proved to be a man-of-the-match performance.

Campbell's halves partner for much of 2001 - the Sharks' current kicking coach Adam Dykes - credits the influence that Preston had in getting the side into the finals series.

"I think it was about half-way through the year and we were on a bit of a losing streak, I think we had lost two or three in a row and Johnny Lang (2001 Cronulla Coach) came to me and said 'What are your thoughts on playing Preston at halfback," said Dykes.

"He was on the wing at the beginning of the year, but Johnny put him into halfback and we went on this huge run. 

"Playing outside him - I loved playing with him. He was just a natural footy player. That was probably my most enjoyable year of footy, playing with him and Peach (David Peachey)." 

 

Big League: Round 19, 2001: Sharks vs Penrith

 

In what was a stellar year for the Sharks’ utility back, Campbell crossed for 17 tries from his 29 appearances, scoring a total of 116 points throughout the season.

"He was just a footballer, and there's not many left in the game at the moment," said Dykes.

"Preston could play to structure - he could also just do what ever he wanted, when he wanted - because that's what he grew up doing, and that's what got him there. 

"He was a freakish talent." 

The try scoring feats and the exciting style of play saw Campbell secure the year’s Dally M Medal ahead of the-now Rugby League immortal, Andrew Johns.

Campbell was just the third Cronulla player to take out the medal, behind club immortals Steve Rogers (1981) and Gavin Miller (1988,1989). 

"'Presto' fully deserved that. It was great for the club, and for the team," he said.

"I was there that night and I was so wrapped for him. What he achieved throughout the whole season, but especially when he came into halfback, that set him up for future success in the halves.

"He's one of the true gentlemen of Rugby League. There wouldn't be a bad word spoken about him." 

2001's 32-point defeat of Penrith remains the club's equal-second biggest winning margin against the Panthers. 

Cronulla Sharks 42 [Tries: Preston Campbell (2), David Peachey, Paul Mellor, Damien Mostyn, Adam Dykes, Jason Stevens, Nathan Long – Goals: Jason Ferris (3/6), Preston Campbell (2/3)] 

Def. Penrith Panthers 10 [Tries: Luke Rooney, Ryan Girdler – Goals: Ryan Girdler (1/2)]