While their roles and responsibilities may have changed somewhat over time, what has remained the same is the importance of having a quality hooker.
Once upon a time they played in the 12 jersey, their number one job being to win the ball from the scrum, with the Sharks having a couple of top notch hookers in the early days in Ron Turner and John McMartin. Both quality players who were extremely capable of getting their teams more than a fair share of possession.
The rules then changed, as did the number on their back, however despite being in nine and no longer having to strike for the ball in each and every scrum, the hooker remained a vital component of any successful team.
Aaron Raper had an outstanding attacking ability, Dean Treister was a tenacious fighter who bled for the blue, black and white, before John Morris stood the test of time, playing 300 NRL games, 105 at the Sharks as a determined and hard-working number nine.
Finally, it was the never-say-die attitude and competitive streak in hooker Michael Ennis which helped the Sharks to climb their ‘Everest’ in 2016 and claim that elusive NRL title.
Six very different players, all essential to the success of the teams in which they were involved with and all extremely worthy of a place in the Sharks Team of the Half Century.
From Gunnedah in northern NSW, Ron Turner joined the Cronulla Club in 1970 and that same year after being selected in the Australian squad for the World Cup Tour of England, became the club’s first international player.
Turner played at hooker in the World Cup Final in which Australia defeated England at Leeds in 1970, in a team which contained legends of the game such as Bob Fulton, Bob McCarthy, Ron Coote and Bob O’Reilly, while keeping the highly regarded Elwyn Walters on the Kangaroos reserves bench.
He would go on to play four games for the Kangaroos and one match for NSW.
Built up quite a partnership with the likes of Tommy Bishop and Cliff Watson at the Sharks, culminating in their appearance in the 1973 Grand Final, with Turner playing five seasons and 92 top grade matches for the club.
After leaving the Sharks in 1975 Turner had one year with the Newtown Jets.
Rugged, tough and typical of his era, Turner was the first of many Sharks to represent country and state. While many current Sharks fans would not have seen him play, Turner’s credentials indicate a player of the highest calibre and one who would sit proudly in the Sharks Team of the Half Century.
Back in an era where a hooker earned his keep by getting his feet to the ball in the scrum and winning possession for his team, John McMartin was one of the best.
Brought to the club from the Eels in 1976 after representing NSW the previous season, McMartin was signed with the aim to provide his team with a better percentage of the football. And he consistently delivered as he helped turn the Sharks into premiership contenders in 1978.
McMartin was an integral member of the team which won its way through the finals series in ’78, before drawing with Manly in the premiership decider.
Ruled out with injury he was a big loss in the midweek replay, with the Sharks going down 16-0 to Manly without McMartin supplying a steady share of the ball and his experience in the middle of the field.
In all played 92 games for the Cronulla Club, after having previously racked up 167 appearances for the Eels. Retired at the end of the 1979 season.
McMartin had some big shoes to fill after coming into the team following on from Ron Turner, but he delivered in spades. Another justifiably earning a nomination for a place in the Sharks Team of the Half Century.
Possessing skill and an outstanding game awareness, Aaron Raper had to carry a famous name into every game he played as the son of rugby league royalty, something he managed to do with plenty of class.
A local junior from the De La Salle club, Raper debuted in First grade as a teenager in 1990, wasn’t used in the top side in 1991 before cementing a place in the team in 1992, playing 17 matches that year and continuing the momentum the following season.
1994 was a setback, with Raper ruled out for the entire year, before he battled back in 1995, his form undeniable as he earned selection in the Australian World Cup squad at seasons’ end.
Played 57 First Grade games at the Sharks, before the SuperLeague war forced his transfer to the Parramatta Eels at the end of 1995.
One of the most skilful and creative of all the hookers to have come through the ranks, Raper may have had a famous father in John, but his football reputation was built on his own special talents and abilities.
Does Aaron Raper come into the reckoning for a place in your Sharks Team of the Half Century?
A local boy from the De La Salle Caringbah club, he came through the grades with a number of players who would later be mentioned amongst club legends, however none could claim to having more passion for the colours and for the Sharks emblem than Dean Treister.
While passion and spirit may have been his trademarks, don’t let that take away from the skill and toughness exhibited by Treister on a regular basis, with 161 First Grade games testimony to his abilities.
Small in stature, Treister was a committed defender who never took a backward step, even from First Grade coaches, with his stoush with incoming coach Chris Anderson in 2003 not dissimilar to the captain-coach conflict at the Wests Tigers in 2016.
Demoted and moved on, some will say before his time, Treister still managed to forge an impressive 11-year career at the Sharks, making numerous appearances in Finals teams of the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Another serious candidate in a quality field of contenders for the hooking role in the Sharks Team of the Half Century. Where does Treister stand amongst the group in your estimation?
Left quite an impression in five seasons and 105 games for the Sharks with his contribution to the cause continuing in his role as Cronulla’s Holden Cup Coach in 2017.
Morris was a player aware of his limitations but someone prepared to work harder than the next to achieve his goals.
His highlights were many, however the try saver in the dying seconds of a finals match against the Cowboys in 2013 probably stands out above all the rest, with the last ditch tackle epitomising Morris’s competitive attitude.
Retired in May 2014 after his 300th NRL game, a Monday night match up against the Rabbitohs, due to a serious neck injury, some would say before his time was up but after an outstanding career in the NRL there was little Morris had yet to achieve.
For longevity, for surviving the rigours of 14 years in the NRL, five of those seasons at the Sharks, Morris is well and truly in the conversation when it comes to the best Sharks ‘9’s of all time. Does he get your vote for the Sharks Team of the Half Century?
Arriving at the Sharks in 2015 with a reputation of a niggler and a player with his major focus to get under the skin of his opponents, Michael Ennis proved to be so much more in his two seasons in the Sutherland Shire.
Skilful, tough and ultra-competitive, Ennis may not have been the Sharks captain but he led from the front, tackling himself to a standstill and putting his team on the front foot with his abilities at dummy half.
The Dally M hooker of the Year in 2015, Ennis probably lifted to an even greater level in the Sharks premiership season of 2016, with experts conceding the NRL trophy probably wouldn’t have taken up residence in Cronulla had it not been for his efforts this past year.
Durable in addition to his other qualities, Ennis missed just one game in his two seasons at the Sharks, in what was a celebrated 51-game career at the Cronulla club.
Only two years at the Sharks, but what a two years they were, Ennis will certainly be rated amongst the best hookers to play for the Club. Does he rate as your best?
Vote now for the hooker in your Cronulla Sharks 'Team of the Half Century' today and be a part of history.