Team of the Half Century: Lock Forward
The modern lock plays tight and plays tough and while those in days gone by may have bene required to carry out somewhat of a different role, the man in the 13, or was it the 8 shirt way back when, has always had an important part to play.
Some of the very best lock cemented that position on the field for lengthy periods, Greg Pierce for 12 seasons, Nick Graham for seven or eight and Paul Gallen in the current era for almost 15.
David Hatch, nominated for a position in the back row in the Team of the Half Century, was another to dominate the lock spot for many years.
All made outstanding contributions to the Sharks, with Gallen set to go around again in the Club’s 50th anniversary season in 2017.
Then there were those who played for a short time or somewhere in between, from Kurt Sorensen who steamrolled opponents in the 1980’s, to the silky skills of Greg Nixon in the 80’s and the brutal aggression of Kiwi Tawera Nikau in the late 1990’s.
All outstanding performers, all key to the success of the team in which they played.
Another top heavy field of candidates, who comes deserves recognition and therefore selection as the lock forward in the Sharks Team of the Half Century.
A Sharks Immortal, Greg Pierce played both in the backrow and at lock for the Cronulla Club in what was a distinguished career totalling 210 First Grade games
Also represented Australia on eight occasions, including one game as Captain on a Kangaroos Tour of New Zealand in 1978, as well as playing two matches for City against Country and six times for NSW.
A player with an abundance of both skill and toughness, along with Ken Maddison and Steve Rogers, Pierce would be the first Shark to embark on a Kangaroo Tour of the UK and France back in 1973, while he was one of only two Sharks players to be afforded the honour of captain of the national team.
Graded from the local Gymea Club in 1968, Pierce made his top grade debut in 1969, playing through until 1980 with the Sharks, included amongst his highlights an appearance in the 1973 Grand Final.
Upon retirement Pierce would coach the Sharks in 1981 and 1982, guiding the team into the competition finals in his first season at the helm.
Nominated at both lock and backrow, while Pierce will go down as one of the greatest Sharks to ever wear the jersey, where does he fit in your Sharks Team of the Half Century?
Also a nominee for a backrow position in the Sharks Team of the Half Century, Kurt Sorensen, younger brother of former Shark Dane, played with an aggressive and rugged style, one which would strike fear into his opponents.
Following his brother to the Sharks in 1979, Kurt played predominately at lock as well as in the backrow, proving to be equally effective in whatever position he found himself as he became a leading light at the Sharks during his five-year stay.
Sorensen played 132 games at the Sharks from 1979-1983 and again in 1985 following a year at the Roosters. Like his brother was a Kiwi international, representing New Zealand on 28 occasions.
When the 28 Kiwi caps are added to 132 Sharks games, 252 appearances for Widnes, plus stints at Northcote, Whitehaven and Wigan in the UK, Sorensen’s resume is long and impressive.
An outstanding performer, nominated for two positions, is Kurt Sorensen a chance of joining brother Dane in the Sharks Team of the Half Century
A local boy who began his first grade career in 1981 at Souths, Greg Nixon returned to the Sharks the next season where he would go on to deliver five extremely productive years in Cronulla colours.
A ball-playing lock from the Gymea club with the skills and ability to slot into the halves if needed, Nixon would play 72 top grade games for the club from 1982 through until 1988, during an era when the Sharks side was dominated by local juniors.
Nixon slotted in seamlessly in what were some challenging times at the Sharks, complementing experienced campaigners such as the Sorensen brothers and Gavin Miller, while helping to bring through a number of talented youngsters including Andrew Ettingshausen, Mark McGaw, Michael Porter and Jonathan Docking.
Breaking into the Sharks top grade team in 1982, Nixon’s most productive year may have been 1984, where he played in all 24 matches for the club and shared the captaincy with David Hatch.
Maybe one without the highlight reel of some of the others contenders, Nixon was a serious talent and a player highly respected by those he played with and against.
Up against a couple of Sharks legends, could Nixon be a ‘smokey’ in the Sharks Team of the Half Century.
Few will forget Tawera Nikau’s barnstorming performance for the Melbourne Storm in their 1999 Grand Final win over the Dragons, however previous to that the lanky Kiwi was a Sharks stand out in three seasons at the Cronulla club.
Tough as they come with a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude while on the field, Nikau would play 61 top grade games for the Sharks from 1995-97.
While he had good players around him during his years at the club, Nikau’s influence helped guide the Sharks to three consecutive finals appearances, highlighted when they qualified for the 1997 SuperLeague Grand Final only to go down to a powerful Brisbane Broncos outfit.
Enjoyed a successful career at Castleford and Warrington in the UK before and after his stints with the Sharks and Storm, also playing 19 Test matches for New Zealand.
Three years may not seem like a long time in Sharks colours, however Nikau made a significant impact and left a lasting impression. He certainly wouldn’t be out of place in the Sharks Team of the Half Century.
One of the most gifted lock-back rowers to play for the Sharks, Nick Graham stood the test of time in playing 11 years in the top grade in what was an outstanding rugby league career.
From the nearby De La Salle Caringbah club, Graham debuted in 1992 and would go on to play 135 First Grade games, 216 in total for the Cronulla club, with his clever ball-playing skills a feature of his play.
Coming through the grades with a quality crop of local juniors, players such as Mat Rogers, Adam Dykes and Dean Treister, Graham would himself play an integral role in some of the successful Sharks sides of the late 1990’s.
With John Lang the head coach, the Sharks would qualify for finals for four consecutive seasons from 1999-2002, with Graham playing in every finals match during that time.
Despite still being near the height of his powers, with Graham selected to play for City Origin in 2002, was controversially dropped in 2003 by incoming coach Chris Anderson. Graham moved to the UK to play for Wigan later that same year, returning to play one season for the Wests Tigers before retiring at the end of 2004.
Tough when he had to be, clever when he needed to be, Graham played to a consistently high level for a long period of time. Definitely worthy of consideration for a place in the Sharks Team of the Half Century.
The skipper who managed to finally bring the trophy home to the Sutherland Shire after 50 years of trying, the Grand Final win capped an outstanding career for current club captain Paul Gallen.
“Turn the porch lights off, we’re bring the trophy home,” Gallen proclaimed at ANZ Stadium following the win over the Storm, with his leadership and never-say-die attitude instrumental in the Sharks success.
Gallen joined the Sharks in 2001, debuting in round 15 against his junior club the Eels. Few could have imagined the career he would build from there, with Gallen playing 281 games for Cronulla, along with 24 matches for NSW, many of those as captain, and 32 Test matches for Australia.
With an huge engine that enabled him to play big minutes each week, Gallen would rack up impressive individual stats on a regular basis, however it was team success which he craved, the Grand Final win in 2016 the culmination of all his previous efforts.
The Sharks captain courageous’, Gallen epitomised the hard-nosed attitude of the teams in which he played.
There have been some great lock-forwards play at the Sharks in their 50-year history. Is Gallen the greatest?
Vote now for the lock in your Cronulla Sharks 'Team of the Half Century' today and be a part of history.