Team of the Half Century: The Centres
While there have been some truly talented people come through the Cronulla Sharks however there is one position truly synonymous with some of the greats; the centres.
From the emergence of two of the most prominent players to don the black, white and blue in Steve Rogers and Andrew Ettingshausen, to the more recent centres in Paul Mellor, Phil Bailey and Ricky Leutele - we’ve seen some quality players feature in the three-quarter role for the Sharks.
As the Sharks’ iconic style featuring flair and exuberance took hold of the game of Rugby League in the mid-to-late '90s and beyond, each and every one of these centres contributed to their respective side's successes.
We feature these eight options throughout this week as we determine who will be crowned the centres in our Team of the Half Century.
Who will get your vote?
One of our Club’s greatest ever players.
Rogers debuted for the Cronulla Sharks in 1973 where he debuted as an eighteen-year-old, where he finished the season playing in the losing Grand Final side against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.
From here, Rogers’ career escalated as his slight of hand and iconic swerve wowed opposition teams and crowds alike.
In the 1978 season, Rogers captained the Sharks to the Grand Final where they were again defeated.
On a personal note, Rogers received the Dally M Medal in 1981 along with Captain and Lock of the Year in the same year and the Rothmans Medal in 1975.
Rogers played for Kangaroos on 24 occasions along with his 15 appearances for New South Wales.
Another one of the Sharks greats to feature with the ‘3’ on his back.
‘ET’ debuted for the Sharks at the ripe old age of 17 while still at high school, highlighting his immense talent.
Ettingshausen’s speed, evasive skills and strength made him a common feature in both the New South Wales and Australian Kangaroos sides through out the the 1980s and 90s.
The local junior featured for the Sharks on 324 occasions, New South Wales 30 (ARL 27, Super League 3) and the Kangaroos on 29 (RL 25 and Super League 4) making him truly one of the Club’s greats.
Mark ‘Sparkles’ McGaw, a NSW and Australian representative in his time with the Sharks, was widely regarded as one of the game’s most versatile outside backs in the formative years of a 9-year stint at the Club.
Not looking out of place with numbers 1-through-5 on his back, McGaw found a home in the Sharks’ centres, forming a dream pairing with fellow Team of the Half Century nominee, Andrew Ettingshausen.
McGaw played 156 first grade games with the Sharks from 1984-1992, scoring 35 tries at Club level, as well as six in 13 games for the Blues and four in as many matches for Australia.
Bursting onto the scene in 1997, Russell Richardson would go on to play 92 games for the Sharks across six seasons spent at the Club.
Nippy and skilful with ball in hand, Richardson posed a threat for opposition defences at any and every time of asking.
Renowned for his support play, Richardson formed a damaging combination with his regular outside man in winger Brett Howland – with the pair often feeding off the work done by the other in the pursuit of points for the Sharks.
First debuting with the Rabbitohs in 1991, Paul Mellor signed on with the Sharks and first featured in the Club’s Minor Premiership-winning year of 1999.
A fleet-footed outside back, Mellor was as handy in the centres as he was on the flank, though he will be best remembered for his work done with numbers ‘3’ and ‘4’ on his back.
Mellor played in the Club’s Preliminary Finals match versus the Warriors of 2002, before making a switch to the English Super League in seasons 2003 and 2004.
Mellor returned to the Sharks in 2005, before then returning to the club where he first debuted as a 17-year-old.
Mellor accumulated 104 games for the Sharks across five seasons, scoring 43 tries in his time at the Club.
Powerful ball runner Chris McKenna was a prominent figure in the Sharks backline throughout the late 1990s and into the new millennium, playing 118 games for the Sharks across six seasons at the Club.
A member of the Sharks team to feature in the 1997 Super League Grand Final, McKenna found higher honours in the form of a Queensland Maroons berth that season, also.
McKenna represented Queensland on seven occasions throughout his time at the Sharks, including all three matches of the Maroons’ successful 2002 series.
Just as capable in the backrow, Phil Bailey was a mainstay in the Sharks side from the early-to-mid 2000s, playing 103 games from the Club in years 2002-2006.
Arriving at the Sharks from Manly (then Northern Eagles) ahead of the 2002 campaign, Bailey featured largely in the side’s run towards an eventual Preliminary Final showdown with the Warriors later that season.
Scoring 32 tries in his five seasons at the Sharks, Bailey’s efforts had earned him an Australian Kangaroos berth in 2003.
Bailey departed the Australian shores at the end of the 2006 season, pursuing his career with English Super League Club, the Wigan Warriors, before retiring from the game in 2010.
Though first debuting with the Sharks way back in 2010, Ricky Leutele came to find his feet in the Sharks backline as of the 2012 season, playing consistent football having overcome injury and other setback in years prior.
An NRL regular there on, Leutele was asked to play a differing role in the side’s Premiership-winning campaign, with his services often called upon by Coach Flanagan from the interchange bench.
Scoring decisive tries both as a starter and from the bench throughout 2016, Leutele would be a part of the run-on 13 that would then go on to lift the Provan Summons trophy on that fateful evening in October.
Playing the full 80 minutes – and a few agonising seconds to boot – the centre made what proved to be the match-sealing tackle, well after the sound of the final siren.
As of the end of the 2016 season, Leutele has accrued 20 tries from his 79 First Grade appearances for the Sharks.
Make your choice on the Sharks Team of the Half Century below!