Townsend dreams of Sharks maiden title
By Matt Encarnacion (AAP)
Paul Gallen may be the undoubted face of Cronulla, but there is one player in the team who could very well bleed more black, white and blue than the Sharks skipper.
Halfback Chad Townsend played his junior footy with the Yarrawarrah Tigers, and is the only local product in coach Shane Flanagan's first-choice 17.
It gives the 25-year-old a unique insight into what an inaugural premiership, one now in the Sharks' sights after leaping to the top of the NRL ladder on the back of eight straight wins, would mean for the Shire.
And it wouldn't just prompt someone to turn the porch light off.
"I think they'd shut down the Kingsway," Townsend told AAP.
"Some fans have even said to me already that if we were to keep going, they'd take the week off work.
"For the people of the Shire, people that have grown up here and been Sharks fans their whole life, they haven't had much to cheer about. Sometimes they've been close, real close.
"We've got a long way to go, but if we did it, it would turn the whole joint on its head."
Having played all 260 of his first grade games at the Sharks, captain Gallen has long been the heart and soul of the franchise.
A name synonymous with the once-battling club.
Off-contract at the end of the season, lifting the NRL trophy would likely finish his decorated career.
"He's been the pillar of this club for the past 10-15 years," Townsend says.
"He's always given his 100 per cent on the field. Whether this year is his last year or whether he plays on whatever he does, I think for him to go out a winner would be unreal.
"Just for the amount of effort and time he's put into this club. It's been amazing, what he's been able to do."
For Townsend however, being a part of the club's first premiership win might not compare to making it in the NFL or winning Olympic gold, but it would still complete a childhood dream.
"Walking down the street or walking to the game, people always say `hi' to me and I can just relate to them because when I was young, I used to come to these games and sit on the family hill too," he said.
"I used to be one of those kids that come to the game, wave my flag and watch the Sharks play. Now that I'm out there doing it, it's pretty special. It'd be bloody unreal to be part of the first team to do it."
After making his debut in 2011, Townsend struggled to establish himself in the halves, instead making the difficult decision to take on a two-year deal at the Auckland-based Warriors as he chased more minutes.
The NSW City Origin representative then returned over the summer, and has been a vital cog in the Sharks' rise as premiership contenders, with some labelling him the most improved player in the league.
Townsend says the team has the tools to make it all the way.
"We've got a great team, a great mix of seniority and youthfulness, and playing a really good brand of football at the moment," he said.
"We're able to score some times and put some points on some teams, which for me as a halfback is something very pleasing.
"I don't see why we can't, but there's a long way to go."