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Long before Paul Gallen and his men turned off the porch light, a single, polished metal trophy bearing the name and logo of an Australian clothing manufacturer stood marooned in the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks' trophy cabinet.

It stood central and proud, casting a shadow over a limited-edition Andrew Ettingshausen Pepsi can, a pair of Brett 'Noddy' Kimmorley's signed football boots and a couple of replica Rothman's medals. Unfairly, the trophy was the central figure for decades of mockery at the expense of the black, white and blue faithful.

Regardless, the 1979 Amco Cup victory remains one of the club's greatest achievements, and the road to that victory began on this week, the 4th of April 1979, against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Leichhardt Oval.

In 1979, the Amco Cup was a round-robin type competition, whereby the winner of each pool progressed to the knockout stage. The games were usually played mid-week at Leichhardt Oval in between the regular weekend fixtures.

The tournament was split into four pools. Cronulla landed in Pool B alongside the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Penrith Panthers, and Auckland.

Norm Provan's men easily accounted for their round one opponent the Bulldogs 22-8 and looked every bit likely to live up to their tag as pre-tournament favourites.

The 1979 Sharks team.
The 1979 Sharks team.

The Sharks returned to earth with a thud when humbled by the less-fancied Penrith Panthers 18-10 in their second group match.

In their third and final group match against Auckland, only a win would see them advance to the finals. Despite featuring New Zealand international stars James Leuluai at fullback and a young Olsen Filipaina in the centres, the team from over the ditch offered little resistance to a team that was without future Sharks Immortal Steve Rogers, dashing winger Rick Bourke and crafty halfback Steve Hansard.

Cronulla led 12-0 at half time with the task made a little easier when Auckland's replacement forward Clarrie Paul was sent off in the first minute of the second half. Cronulla beat Auckland 30-10, with Graham Beasley scoring two tries, Greg Mullane, Paul Khan and Steve Edmonds each crossing for a try and Greg Cox kicking six goals. Sharks' Kiwi international Kurt Sorensen was awarded man of the match.

The semi-final, played on the 1st August 1979, saw Cronulla meet the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Acclaimed commentator Ray 'Rabs' Warren wrote in the Big League Magazine: "If there's been a more exciting Cup semi-final than the one between Cronulla and Souths then I haven't seen it."

The match was a ding-dong battle with Cronulla scoring the match winner with two minutes left on the clock to run out 13-9 victors. Souths winger Terry Fahey was in possession when penalised by referee Greg Hartley late in the game for an incorrect play the ball, gifting the Sharks the ball and presenting an opportunity to snatch victory with only minutes remaining. Steve Rogers executed one of his customary bombs which bounced to Chris Gardner, the centre then unloading to prop Paul Khan who touched down to send the Sharks into the final. In a losing side, the Rabbitohs' Rocky Laurie was adjudged to be the man of the match.

The final was played on the 15th of August against a combined Brisbane side featuring two future NRL Immortals in Mal Meninga and a young Wally Lewis, as well as future Cronulla Sharks head coach John Lang.

Cronulla had the game wrapped up by the halftime break with a commanding 15-0 lead. The Sharks opened the scoring after only two minutes when Sorensen made a break before finding a supporting Gary Cameron who raced away to score the try. Steve Rogers converted to take the Sharks to an early 5-0 lead.

Steve Kneen tackles Wally Lewis in the Amco Cup final.
Steve Kneen tackles Wally Lewis in the Amco Cup final.

Cameron crossed again 13 minutes later before Rick Bourke scored to take the game beyond the reach of their Queensland opponents.

Brisbane hit back in the second half through a Norm Carr try, but any thought of a comeback was thwarted when Cameron scored his third try.

Cronulla claimed the $78,000 winners' cheque with a comprehensive 22-5 win.

The standouts for Cronulla were man-of-the-match Cameron who bagged three tries, and hooker Rowland Beckett who shared the scrums 10-all with 1973 Kangaroos hooker John Lang.

Greg Pierce with the Amco Cup.
Greg Pierce with the Amco Cup.

In the Cronulla Sharks Football Club 1979 Annual Report, President Steve Hodsdon wrote: "1979 has been for us another milestone after 12 years of striving, our 13th year in First Division has seen us win a major competition, the prestigious Amco Cup.

"The effort displayed by our Coach, Norm Provan, the entire team and all others connected with our playing activities to achieve this result, was truly magnificent and deserves our utmost praise. In the Premiership proper we finished a creditable third and I am sure could have even surpassed this most commendable placing but for the effects of the severely strenuous fortnight's playing and training activities immediately prior to the Amco Final."

The Amco Cup stood alone in the trophy cabinet for years, serving as a reminder of past legends who paved the way for the club's first NRL premiership in 2016. It symbolised the hard work, resilience, and belief. Though the 2016 NRL premiership holds great significance, the Amco Cup remains a revered artefact, embodying the club's history and the legacy of those who came before.

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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