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Sharkies shut down marks the end of an era

NSW Premier Neville Wran officially cut the ribbon alongside Club President Jack Stewart on April 30, 1977 to signify the opening of the new Cronulla Leagues Club, the event marking the start of an exciting phase in the history of the Sharks.

The new Leagues Club premises, which bordered their home ground, then known as Endeavour Field, put the Cronulla club in the unique situation of having their registered club and playing field, standing side by side.

The next day in a round seven clash with rivals the Manly Sea Eagles, almost 11,000 fans turned up to see the Sharks score an 11-5 victory, with most visiting the new club while they were there.

Now some 42 years later, this weekend one era will end, with an exciting new chapter about to begin, with the Sharks Leagues Club to undergo a major facelift.

The current Club shuts it doors on Sunday, December 15, with work to commence soon after on a major redevelopment, one which will see the home of the Sharks transformed into a facility set to be the envy of all NRL clubs.

Sharks CEO Richard Munro, in a message sent recently to members and fans, conveyed the sentiments being felt by many, that being a touch of sadness in seeing the current club shutting down, mixed with excitement as to what the future holds.

“While sad to see the end of an era, we are really excited about work beginning on the new, upgraded club,” Munro expressed. “It is not only going to give us all a world class venue, but there is no doubt it will be one of the best Clubs in the NRL. 

“We are confident it will set the Sharks up for long term financial success.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing regarding the construction of the Sharks Leagues Club back in those early days. Built on an old tip site, work began in 1973, only for financial hurdles to delay the opening as money dried up when the club was at lock-up stage.

With another $1 million needed for completion, a combination of Save the Sharks fundraising efforts in and around the Sutherland Shire, and a State Bank rescue mission, backed by Premier Wran, saw the doors open some four years later.

Before the bulldozers moved, Stewart now 98, instrumental in getting off the ground and the Club President for 19 years, took the opportunity to drop by for one last look.

During his visit, where he was joined by current and former Chairman in Dino Mezzatesta and Barry Pierce, Don Anderson the CEO of Sharks major sponsor Ace Gutters Durakote and the recently retired skipper Paul Gallen, Stewart recounted tales of the problems they faced before the new club could open. He spoke of the euphoria when the big day eventually arrived, while predicting similar excitement and satisfaction from the membership once the new structure is complete and open for business in late 2021 or early 2022.

As Munro explained, the current building will be gutted, leaving a blank canvass from which to work, with the final product something he expects Sharks members to be proud of.

"The Leagues Club will be rebuilt on the top two floors and half the basement level out to the ground," Munro told The St George and Sutherland Shire Leader.

"The third floor will be the main operating floor, and will include a bistro, cafe, 1800 square metre alfresco deck overlooking Woolooware Bay, gaming area and chairman's lounge.

"The top floor will predominantly be conference and function rooms, the largest catering for 550 people.

"The existing club was never really designed to take advantage of the water views, but we are absolutely building it to overlook Woolooware Bay," Munro added.

While many memories have been created on the playing field, almost as much history surrounds the Leagues Club itself.

From celebrating big wins, the Grand Final victory party of 2016 being perhaps the biggest of all, to supporting the Sharks and enjoying time with family, friends and other members and fans, the Sharks Leagues Club has been a home away from home and has meant a lot, to many people.

However, on Sunday the doors will close as work on the transformation begins.

In the interim, the Sharks hope to soon finalise the amalgamation with the Kareela Golf Club, as they look to give Sharks members a new home, both for the next few years and into the future.

Time is running out, however for those who haven’t done so already, come in and enjoy the Sharks Leagues Club one last time.

It’s the end of one era, with an exciting new chapter about to be written.

Ace Gutters CEO Don Anderson, 100-year-old member Ben Lee, Sharks CEO Richard Munro, long-time member Robin Jacques, former Chairman Barry Pierce, recently retired captain Paul Gallen, Sharks Chairman Dino Mezzatesta and (sitting) former Club President Jack Stewart
Ace Gutters CEO Don Anderson, 100-year-old member Ben Lee, Sharks CEO Richard Munro, long-time member Robin Jacques, former Chairman Barry Pierce, recently retired captain Paul Gallen, Sharks Chairman Dino Mezzatesta and (sitting) former Club President Jack Stewart