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This week in history: Sharks in sevens heaven

During this week in 1993, the Sharks claimed victory in the 'Trophy Final' at the Coca-Cola World Sevens tournament held at the Sydney Football Stadium, the headquarters of rugby league.

The tournament featured 24 teams divided into eight pools. Cronulla found themselves in Pool E, alongside the Eastern Suburbs Roosters and the South African Rhinos.

Without stars Andrew Ettingshausen, Les Davidson, captain Dan Stains and Aaron Raper, the youthful Cronulla side faced stiff competition from teams loaded with first-grade experience.

In their first match, the Sharks suffered a defeat to the eventual overall tournament winners, the Eastern Suburbs Roosters, with a score of 18-10. However, they quickly rebounded by convincingly beating the crowd-favourite Rhinos 24-10.

Troy Stone in action against Eastern Suburbs in the 1993 World Sevens tournament.
Troy Stone in action against Eastern Suburbs in the 1993 World Sevens tournament.

Securing second position in the pool meant Cronulla were no longer in contention for the major prize. Instead, they faced Newcastle in the Trophy quarter final.

The young Sharks narrowly triumphed over a Novocastrian side featuring Knights legends Robbie O'Davis, Michael Hagan and Paul Harragon, with a score of 18-16. This propelled them into the semi final, where they replicated the result against the Gold Coast Seagulls.

The final saw Cronulla locking horns with the Parramatta Eels, who lined up with former Sharks great Michael Speechley, an off-season addition to the blue-and-gold army. The hotly contested match witnessed both teams aggressively attacking from various points on the field, characteristic of this style of tournament.

Jason Hudson, an outstanding young Sharks recruit from Newcastle, shone by scoring a remarkable length-of-the-field try. However, it was Chris Quinn who sealed a 20-14 victory with a decisive try in the dying stages.

This triumph earned Cronulla the trophy along with a substantial $8,000 winner's cheque.

The squad on this memorable day included club legend Glen Coleman. Coleman recalls: "There was no harder game aerobically than playing sevens. The games were so fast and exhausting, super hard, but I enjoyed sevens. I was kind of okay at it as I was reasonably fit. It was a thrill winning at the SFS."

It wasn't the Sharks' first major success in the sevens format.

An often-overlooked fact reveals the club secured victory in what is widely considered Australia's inaugural rugby league sevens tournament held in Orange in 1985.

The brainchild of Robert 'Bob' Cochrane, a league enthusiast, the Orange Sevens drew inspiration from the growing popularity of the concept in rugby union. Cochrane's vision garnered enthusiastic support from the NSWRL, as well as backing from the Lions Club and the Bathurst/Orange Development Corporation.

Spanning the October long weekend, the tournament attracted a modest number of NSWRL clubs alongside several country teams. Teams travelled from as far as Western Australia, with even a side from Papua New Guinea making the journey.

Cronulla fielded two sides in '85, distinguished as the Firsts and Seconds sides. The Firsts showcased a blend of attacking brilliance with the superstar pairing of Ettingshausen and McGaw, complemented by the stoic defence of David Hatch and Mark Ellison.

During their triumphant journey, the Firsts maintained an impressive record by not conceding a single point. In the final showdown, they secured a decisive 14-0 victory over their arch-rivals, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Errol Hillier earned the well-deserved title of man of the match in the ultimate clash.

On the other hand, the Seconds, featuring emerging talents such as Shaun McNamara and Guy Picken, reached the quarter finals before losing to Manly. A standout moment for them was a resounding 64-6 victory against one of the county sides.

In a remarkable feat, Cronulla returned the following year and once again emerged victorious, solidifying their status as a dominant force in sevens rugby.

One of the stars of the returning '86 side was Dean Carney. Carney recalls: "It was hot and humid, but our team was well balanced, featuring players like ET (Andrew Ettingshausen), Sparkles (Mark McGaw) and Docko (Jonathan Docking). I vividly recall holding my ground in the forwards."

David Hatch holds the trophy aloft after the 1986 Orange Sevens tournament.
David Hatch holds the trophy aloft after the 1986 Orange Sevens tournament.

Such was the success of the Orange Sevens that the NSWRL later adopted the concept, a fact not lost on Bob Cochrane.

"It’s a shame it left Orange, but it was great to say that this is where it started. And while I might not remember all the details, I recall it was a heap of fun for everyone involved," Cochrane says.

Orange Sevens founder Robert Cochrane.
Orange Sevens founder Robert Cochrane.

"One great memory I have is meeting Jack Gibson (Sharks coach). He came out and spoke to a number of people from the community. He was a great supporter of the tournament."

If you have a story idea or want to have a yarn with Ashley, reach out to [email protected]

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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