It was once big brother against the new kids from the Shire, with the Sharks v Dragons local derby born in 1967 and a clash which has since evolved into one of the most highly anticipated on the NRL calendar.
It began as Cronulla v St George, before the Dragons partnership with Illawarra changed the tone slightly but still took none of the intensity out of the rivalry, with Friday night to mark the 100th game between the two clubs – 60 matches pre-merger, this week the 40th meeting since the Dragons and Steelers became one.
The fans traditionally turn up in droves, with the Sharks three highest home game attendances coming in games against the Dragons.
The action on the field is fast and furious, while the banter in the stands somewhat unique with supporters of both clubs loving nothing more than to have bragging rights over their closest neighbours.
And it’s on again on Friday night.
But what have been some of the most memorable derby matches in the 50-year history of games between the two clubs?
There have been many, with each ‘derby’ an event on its own, however we have picked out a few of the best.
The Derby, five of the best Sharks v Dragons games.
Preliminary Semi-Final 1973 - Sharks 18 Dragons 0 – Sydney Cricket Ground
Amazingly the 1973 preliminary semi-final clash between the Sharks and Dragons was the one and only post-season match up prior to the Dragons merger with Illawarra in 1999.
The game also represented the first time the Sharks had played a finals match since earning promotion to the top tier competition in 1967.
Tommy Bishop was the Sharks skipper, Graeme Langlands the Dragons Captain-Coach, with the two sides evenly matches, notching a win apiece during a home and away season where Cronulla finished in second place, the Dragons third.
However, if this didn’t quite turn out as the ‘Year of the Sharks’, with the Grand Final going against them two weeks down the track, it was certainly the year they would put big brother well and truly in their place.
The Sharks dominated from almost the opening whistle, tries to Bishop and former Dragon Ken Maddison, along with six goals from an 18-year-old centre named Steve Rogers, and the Sharks had slayed the Dragons in what was the first significant clash between the two southern Sydney rivals.
Grand Final qualifier 1999 – Dragons 22 Sharks 8 – Stadium Australia
It all started well enough for the Sharks who as minor premiers came into the 1999 Grand Final qualifier confident in their ability and positive about their chances of not only beating the Dragons but of claiming that elusive first NRL title.
It was a finals match up that started well enough for the Sharks, who took a narrow lead to the half time break, however an injury to international outside back Mat Rogers late in the first half sent them to the sheds somewhat edgy.
And without the attacking influence of Rogers, it turned out the Sharks had every reason to be nervous about the outcome.
History will show Anthony Mundine, Nathan Blacklock and others took control and the Dragons rolled over a stunned Sharks side.
It was a shattering result, one that remained with many Sharks fans for years to come.
Round 1 2000 – Sharks 28 Dragons 12 – Stadium Australia
If the match may not have been an epic when it came to local derby encounters, the occasion and the fact that over 62,000 fans were there to witness it, made the round one game in 2000 a memorable one.
Coming off their preliminary final clash the year before, the Sharks v Dragons game was scheduled as the first of a double header at the Olympic Stadium at Homebush, with the Cronulla boys keen on revenge.
Local boy Colin Best scored twice for the Sharks, ET in the twilight of his amazing career grabbed a try and the Sharks were way too good in notching a 28-12 win.
Unfortunately, the season failed to reach any great heights for either club, the Sharks finishing eighth, the Dragons ninth, but in a stadium which would later that year host the world’s best athletes at the Sydney Olympic Games, it was a match to remember.
And for the record, the Roosters beat the Eels 20-16 in the second game on that Saturday evening in February at Stadium Australia.
Semi Final 2002 – Sharks 40 Dragons 24 – Sydney Football Stadium
Again 2002, under the guidance of then-Australian coach Chris Anderson, was a season which had built nicely into the end of season playoffs, was promising so much and had Sharks fans excited.
A week one loss to the Roosters was forgotten when the Sharks scored a dominant win over their local rivals in week two, scoring seven tries in a 40-24 demolition of the Dragons.
The game was also significant for the fact that two young guns would emerge that year, a nuggety backrower named Paul Gallen and a tough and talented five eighth/utility in Greg Bird, while in his first season at the Sharks half back Brett Kimmorley was at the peak of his powers.
The Sharks easily accounted for the Dragons before going down to the Warriors the following week, falling agonisingly one game short of a Grand Final appearance.
Round 13 2013 – Sharks 22 Dragons 18 – WIN Stadium, Wollongong
It was a mid-season match which meant a lot to the Sharks, if not quite as much to a battling Dragons side struggling to keep pace with the leading teams.
However, despite their differing positions on the ladder, the derby again lived up to expectations, with an exciting contest being played out as the Dragons looked likely to cause an upset.
That was until the 80th minute, siren sounding in the background, when something remarkable would take place.
The Sharks were in possession, the ball was kicked through, and of all people it was front rower Andrew Fifita doing the chasing. Surely the Dragons defence would win the race, shuffle the ball dead and the game would go the way of the home team.
Fifita had other ideas, showing amazing pace for a big man and getting to the ball first in a determined 30-metre dash. He stuck out an arm to ground the football, there was some conjecture, it went to the video and the decision was confirmed - TRY - the Sharks sneaking home 22-18.