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Sharks show heart in Coffs with off-field impact

It ended on an unfortunate note with a loss to the Titans, but overall it was another fulfilling week for the Sharks connecting with the passionate Coffs Coast community at their home away from home.

While the NRL fixture was the main drawcard for the locals, the Sharks conducted a series of special activities after touching down in Coffs Harbour on Tuesday.

En route from the airport to their accommodation, the team and coach Craig Fitzgibbon braved a sudden downpour of rain to pose in front of the Big Banana.

The inclement weather unfortunately meant a scheduled Junior Jaws footy clinic wasn't able to proceed that evening, but hundreds of kids still had an unforgettable experience after a meet-and-greet opportunity with the full squad.

"It's a little bit more personal being inside," prop Tom Hazelton said.

"You get to greet every single person where you might not do outside. I'm sure as much as they wanted to have a run around with us they're not all too disappointed."

In conjunction with the Telstra Country Footy Series initiative, Sharks captain Cameron McInnes, star halfback Nicho Hynes and former skipper Dale Finucane presented training gear to the Coffs Harbour Comets Junior Rugby League Club.

On Wednesday, the Sharks Have Heart community team and Finucane visited Toormina Public School, William Bayldon Public School and Sawtell Public School to deliver the One Heart anti-racism program aimed at Year 5 and 6 students.

Finucane also stopped at the Coffs Harbour City Council Animal Shelter, posing for photos with several furry friends and promoting the benefits of pet adoption.

Capping off the day, Finucane was joined by proud Wiradjuri and Darkinjung man Hynes at Coff Harbour's Galambila Aboriginal Health Service, where they helped raffle off 20 tickets, donated by Sharks Have Heart, for '715' health checks.

After a big day of training, the squad and staff headed to Sawtell for dinner.

The doors at C.ex International Stadium were opened to Sharks Members at the captain's run on Thursday. Hordes of appreciative fans were given behind-the-scenes access as the side finalised their preparation to face the Gold Coast. The players all happily took pictures and signed autographs as they came off the field.

Gary and Lois Judd were delighted after travelling more than eight hours from Bundaberg in Queensland to see the Sharks in Coffs Harbour.

"Lois has been a supporter and also a Member for I don't know how many years... since ET (Andrew Ettingshausen)! That was Lois' first love child," Gary said.

The couple raved about the politeness of the players, having enjoyed particularly memorable interactions with Finucane and Lois' current favourite Hynes.

"It's just eye-opening for us. Coming from a little country town like Bundaberg and coming down here to – well, not the big smoke, but it's big for us!" Gary said.

Gary and Lois Judd with their signed Nicho Hynes jersey.
Gary and Lois Judd with their signed Nicho Hynes jersey.

Lois added: "It's good that they go to regional areas. It's excellent."

One group of about 30 had people from Sydney, Mackay and Brisbane wearing custom-made 'Sharks Fans on Tour' T-shirts with a shark chomping on a banana.

"It's brilliant," Trish Metti, a Member of 15 years who sits in the Peter Burns Stand at PointsBet Stadium, said as she watched the captain's run.

"I know we get great access at home at Shark Park, but (it's terrific) just being able to get away, catch up and see the boys up a little bit closer."

Trish Metti shows off her custom 'Sharks on Tour' shirt and stubby holder.
Trish Metti shows off her custom 'Sharks on Tour' shirt and stubby holder.

Major sponsor Aramex were also on hand to provide 50 local competition winners with VIP sideline seats and first access to the players.

Sharks Have Heart delivered a Heartfelt Moment – supported by Quest Apartment Hotels – for registered nurse and Camp Quality volunteer Donna Houghton, who has battled severe health complications this year after contracting double pneumonia, pleural effusion and pleurisy.

Donna has supported the Sharks for decades and was overcome with emotion when presented with a signed jersey by Finucane as well as meeting her favourite players and enjoying prime position under a tent to view the session.

As a token of her appreciation, Donna baked cakes for the team and dropped them off at their hotel. Stay tuned to the Cronulla Sharks social media channels over the coming week to watch a tear-jerking video about Donna's experience.

The culmination of the week was a 8,763-strong crowd cheering on Cronulla, underlining the impact the Sharks have made across a four-year partnership.

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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