Found this today, it is a long read but it says a lot about them, hopefully we can thrash them on the weekend so this clown can add another paragraph. Eulogizing The Season From Hell By Jardian Ormsby 25th August 2009 The Sports Neo Note: I convinced my editors to dump my regular 1,500 word limit, just this once. So, before you even attempt to read this, fetch yourself a coffee, Red Bull, V, or whatever gets you through a long haul. Trust me; youÃ¢Â€Â™re going to need it. In fact, IÃ¢Â€Â™ll wait for you to do that before we get started. (Waiting...) (Waiting...) Alright, letÃ¢Â€Â™s go... Ever wondered what itÃ¢Â€Â™s like to be a Cronulla Sharks fan? Imagine trying to climb to the summit of Mount Everest, investing countless time and money into preparing yourself for the conquest. Imagine having grown up with a bunch of friends who had all been to the summit before and who have told you time, and time (and time) again about what itÃ¢Â€Â™s like to reach the top -- the view, the emotions, the general Ã¢Â€ÂœI canÃ¢Â€Â™t believe I climbed Mount Freaking EverestÃ¢Â€Â euphoria -- partly because they still canÃ¢Â€Â™t believe theyÃ¢Â€Â™ve done it themselves, and partly because they just want to be pricks because theyÃ¢Â€Â™ve been there and you havenÃ¢Â€Â™t. Imagine that you trained for years just so that you could accomplish the same thing as them, eventually setting out from the foot of the mountain with a tour group that included: a condescending guy thatÃ¢Â€Â™s making his umpteenth summit-trip (and is a complete jerk to everyone else who hasnÃ¢Â€Â™t been there), a young kid straight out of high school thatÃ¢Â€Â™s just happy to be there and doesnÃ¢Â€Â™t really care about whether he makes it to the top or not (and thereÃ¢Â€Â™s a good chance heÃ¢Â€Â™s just there for a few gloat-worthy snaps for his facebook page), and a fat kid that canÃ¢Â€Â™t walk thirty metres without craving a cheeseburger (and somehow sneaks one in without anyone else noticing). Imagine getting half way up the mountain and beginning to sense things going terribly wrong. You ignore it, continually convincing yourself that youÃ¢Â€Â™re closer to the summit than you really are. You look around; everyone else around you seems to be cruising along fine. Everyone except the fat kid sneaking cheeseburgers, that is. Somehow you keep going, all the time the condescending guy mocks you from the front of the group because he knows youÃ¢Â€Â™re not going to make it, and he is. You keep pushing and pushing. Small exasperating step after small exasperating step. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s right there. You know it. Everyone else around you knows it. Everyone pushes a little harder to make it. And then... Bam! YouÃ¢Â€Â™re whole body gives way. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s over. All the hard work that went into it gets thrown out the window in one swoop. Everyone else in your group keeps moving along. The condescending guy, the young guy, the fat kid - all of them. But you stay there, eventually coming back down with everyone else on the return leg, listening to them hoot on about the exhilaration of reaching the top, secretly gritting your teeth that even the fat kid made it there before you did. Now, make that an annual thing, swap a few of the characters around here and there Ã¢Â€Â“ THATÃ¢Â€Â™S what itÃ¢Â€Â™s like to be a Cronulla Sharks fan. No joke. We prep, we train, we give it our best, we end up in the same crummy place: listening to other people telling us how great it is to be at the top. The people who care about us keep trying to convince us to abandon ship. We ignore them. ThatÃ¢Â€Â™s who we are. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s a viscous cycle of always trying to climb a mountain that seems to have no summit. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s like playing that old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Nintendo game that was bugged and literally impossible to finish. No matter how much you cruised through the first few levels, thereÃ¢Â€Â™s always that one part later in the game thatÃ¢Â€Â™s impossible to pass. ThatÃ¢Â€Â™s the video game equivalent to our lives as Sharks fans. One way or another, it ends up at the same dead end. So when I sat down to write my annual Cronulla Sharks season ending eulogy, I figured IÃ¢Â€Â™d draw on things from eulogies past. After all, it always ends the same way for us, doesnÃ¢Â€Â™t it? CouldnÃ¢Â€Â™t I just re-use old stuff and change the date to present-time? Not this year. You see, this wasnÃ¢Â€Â™t like any other Sharks season that tends to end in heartbreaking fashion and makes you question the meaning of life. No. This was worse. Way, way worse. We dealt with things this season that others had never dreamed of. This wasnÃ¢Â€Â™t just a crappy year by our small, measly standards. This was a crappy year by anyoneÃ¢Â€Â™s standards. This wasnÃ¢Â€Â™t a season of highs and lows. It was a season of lows and lower lows. And although there isnÃ¢Â€Â™t a timeline in the world that could fully capture just how bad this year was, well...I tried: (IÃ¢Â€Â™m including links just to show you that I didnÃ¢Â€Â™t make any of this stuff up. Amazingly, it all happened in a six-month span) Pre-Season (Win-Loss Record) Ã¢Â€Â¢ Regular first team utility Fraser Anderson quits the club in preference of Japanese Rugby outfit Kobe, signing a contract worth $200,000 per year leading to this dime from Sharks CEO Tony Zappia Ã¢Â€ÂœWe were actually in the process of negotiating to extend FraserÃ¢Â€Â™s contract when his agent came to us with this requestÃ¢Â€Â, like they were EVER going to come anywhere near that figure in trying to extend Anderson. March (1-2) Ã¢Â€Â¢ Brett Kearney and Ben Ross (two pivotal playmakers from the back and front lines respectively) both go down for the season in the very first game of the year, a dire 18-10 victory over the Penrith Panthers. In hindsight, I think weÃ¢Â€Â™d all have been more surprised if Brett Kearney didnÃ¢Â€Â™t get injured this season. Making matters worse, David Simmons gets the nod to replace Kearney at fullback. Apparently Will Smith and the rest of the Ã¢Â€Â˜Men in BlackÃ¢Â€Â™ used a Neuralizer on Ricky Stuart, making him forget just how crummy Simmons was at fullback a year earlier. Apparently. Ã¢Â€Â¢ Starting halfback Brett Seymour is stood down by the Sharks, banned for two matches, and fined $20,000 after being ejected from the popular Ã¢Â€Âœ2230 Bar and RestaurantÃ¢Â€Â and ending up in a garden bed in a Cronulla Mall. Soon after, video footage of Seymour falling over a blonde woman after leaving the club emerges on Channel Nine. You know how that footage ended up in NineÃ¢Â€Â™s possession? Some ex-Hooters chick sold it to them for $3,000. Even the skeeziest people owned us! Ã¢Â€Â¢ Cronulla is identified by the Daily Telegraph as being one of the two teams in serious financial peril, and tantalizingly close relocation, as if we hadnÃ¢Â€Â™t already sold our souls by moving our Round 6 game against the North Queensland Cowboys to Adelaide in order to Ã¢Â€Âœraise awarenessÃ¢Â€Â of the club in South Australia. Ã¢Â€Â¢ The Sharks get shelled by the Newcastle Knights (the other team identified to be in financial danger) at home in a game so incredibly painful to watch that the NRL included this in their official match report: Ã¢Â€ÂœHad To Be Seen To Be Believed...In the 15th minute, perhaps the softest, least-contested scrum in the ignoble recent history of non-contested scrums. In a game as hard and physical as rugby league, the soft Ã¢Â€ÂœbreatherÃ¢Â€Â ritual of the scrum is a joke and a blight on the great game of rugby league. From this perspective, scrums need to become a contest or just done away with completely. Does any other sport have an element in which players purposely donÃ¢Â€Â™t try?Ã¢Â€Â Trust the Sharks to make something already befuddling about 10-15 times worse. Ã¢Â€Â¢ Trent Barrett gets stretchered out of the local derby against the St. George-Illawarra Dragons in the 50th minute. The Sharks end up losing the game 10-6 as the Ã¢Â€ÂœGreat To See We Still CanÃ¢Â€Â™t Play OffenseÃ¢Â€Â debate rages all over popular Sharks fan forums. April (0-4) Ã¢Â€Â¢ Phil Gould makes a slew of scathing remarks aimed at Sharks coach Ricky Stuart. The pearlerÃ¢Â€Â™s include "I just said he needs help. I never said he would listen to anyone. He has always needed help with coaching attacking football. He needs to swallow his pride and ask someone for assistance. It's in the best interests of the club, his team and his players whose careers depend so much on his coaching. He needs to get it through his head that seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Everyone can do with some help from time to time." Although weÃ¢Â€Â™re all standing behind Stuart at the time, we secretly hope he takes on some of GouldÃ¢Â€Â™s advice. Ã¢Â€Â¢ After an abysmal start to the season, the entire Cronulla squad turn to God for help and attend the East Coast City Church. Everyone except Ricky Stuart, that is. Paul Stevens, the club chaplain, organises the get together in a bid to Ã¢Â€Âœlift the spiritsÃ¢Â€Â of the (at that point) wooden spoon favourites. He goes on the record to say that Ã¢Â€ÂœGod definitely wants to help CronullaÃ¢Â€Â. A day later, club captain Paul Gallen gets charged for a high tackle on Craig Wing in his first game back after a two week suspension for striking Bulldogs five-eighth Ben Roberts. At this point, we officially knew it was going to be a long, long, long season. (Shining light: Gallen dodged a bullet by escaping suspension for the Wing-hit as the Ã¢Â€ÂœWe Really, Really Hate CronullaÃ¢Â€Â bandwagon gains more and more momentum. Again, weÃ¢Â€Â™re idiots for ever thinking that hope was a good thing.) Ã¢Â€Â¢ On the field, the Sharks roll off four straight losses in the month of April, including a demoralising 34-10 loss against the Cowboys in Adelaide. In case you missed it, the Sharks moved their home game from Toyota Park to Adelaide in order to raise club awareness with the locals. How many people turned up? 8,547. Well done, Sharks management. (Associated sidenote: my buddy Ray -- a diehard Cowboys fan -- travelled to the game with a posse of Townsville folk and swore that most of the people at the game were rooting for the Cowboys anyways. Talk about your marketing backfire!) May (1-3) Ã¢Â€Â¢ The whole Matthew Johns Group Sex Scandal breaks out. I was in England -- at a time when the Premier League Season was reaching its climax, no less -- when the story broke, so I missed the media storm that followed the story. My unbiased opinion: What a moron! My biased opinion: this seemed a little fishy. Ã¢Â€Â¢ Back-rower Reni Maitua fails a drug test by testing positive to the banned performance enhancing drug, Clenbuterol, leading to a bajillion sarcastic Ã¢Â€Âœthat must be the worst performance enhancing drug everÃ¢Â€Â jokes from bitter Sharks fans who watched Maitua stink out the joint during the opening half of the season. Ã¢Â€Â¢ A day after the failed Maitua drug test, the Ã¢Â€Â˜$20,000 PunchÃ¢Â€Â™ story emerges, alleging Sharks CEO Tony Zappia paid $20k to a female employee for accidentally hitting her in the face during a Ã¢Â€Âœshadow boxingÃ¢Â€Â session, leaving her bruised and traumatized. League HQ runs the story with the title Ã¢Â€ÂœThe Punch That Cost The Sharks $20,000Ã¢Â€Â. To make matters worse... Ã¢Â€Â¢ On the same day, Cronulla loses their almost decade-long sponsors (LG) who announce that they would not renew their contract with the Sharks at the end of the season in the wake of the clubs controversies. In the official announcement, LGÃ¢Â€Â™s marketing director slings this at the Shire-based club "While the recent controversies around the NRL, and the Sharks in particular, were certainly a significant element in our decision we also considered the direction of our company and where we want to take the LG brand." For those interested, LGÃ¢Â€Â™s major sponsorship was worth $700,000 per season. Yikes! Ã¢Â€Â¢ The Sharks get walloped at home by arch rivals St. George Illawarra Dragons 26-4 (another Ã¢Â€ÂœfannnntasticÃ¢Â€Â showing by the Cronulla offense). Making matters worse, club captain Paul Gallen gets slapped with a $10,000 fine from the NRL for disturbing racist slurs directed to popular Dragons forward Mickey Paea, where Gallen allegedly called him a Ã¢Â€Âœblack c***Ã¢Â€Â. The remarks are so degrading that even Anthony Mundine comes up with a semi-civil argument, even though heÃ¢Â€Â™s the same guy that said the U.S. Ã¢Â€Âœdeserved itÃ¢Â€Â after the September 11 attacks. Anyway, at this point our club captain is shown to be: injury prone, a regular visitor to the judiciary, and a racist. He hasnÃ¢Â€Â™t captained the Sharks since. June (3-1) Ã¢Â€Â¢ After 20 years at the Sharkies, Chairman Barry Pierce quits only a week after being re-elected unopposed and handed life-membership of the Sharks Leagues Club. He announces his resignation to be effective at the end of the month. Ã¢Â€Â¢ CEO Tony Zappia is pressured into resigning after new details of his alleged Ã¢Â€Âœshadow boxingÃ¢Â€Â incident comes to the fore, in which recordings of Zappia offering Jenny Hall (the female employee hit in the face by Zappia) the opportunity to Ã¢Â€ÂœspankÃ¢Â€Â him. NRL Chief David Gallop quickly fires a dart directly at the Sharks board left behind: Ã¢Â€ÂœIf the tape is a faithful recording, it would be difficult to see how the club could not take the strongest action possible." Ã¢Â€Â¢ The Daily Telegraph website runs a story on its front page referring to a terminally ill Sharks fan whose dying wish was to see his favourite club become the inheritor of his alleged multi-million dollar estate in life insurance benefits. A day later, 27-year-old Clint Elford is revealed to be a fraudster who forged documents to obtain health insurance. Inflaming the situation, itÃ¢Â€Â™s revealed that Elford had already donated $30,000 to former CEO Tony Zappia who insanely decided to keep the donations his little secret, leaving the rest of the board in the dark. Both Elford and his mother are arrested. In retaliation, Elford plots to have Zappia bashed by a Rebel bike. Of course, who comes out of the whole ordeal smelling like a turd sandwich: us, of course! The bloody Sharks. Ugh! Ã¢Â€Â¢ Former club, state and national star Greg Bird is sentenced to 16 months jail (with a non-parole period of eight months) for Ã¢Â€ÂœrecklesslyÃ¢Â€Â wounding his girlfriend, Kate Milligan, with a broken glass. (Random note: There arenÃ¢Â€Â™t too many more underrated subplots in the Ã¢Â€ÂœCronulla Just CanÃ¢Â€Â™t Win A PremiershipÃ¢Â€Â novel than the B-I-G-H-G-I (Bird Insanely Glassing His Girlfriend Incident). We were cruising through 2008 with the kind of swagger premiers roll with. Then the B-I-G-H-G-I happened and it all slowly unravelled from there. Even though we seemed to gain momentum as we inched closer to final hurdle, true Sharks fans knew we were done without Bird. By the time the Preliminary Final rolled in -- in which the Storm obliterated the Sharks 28-zip -- we all had our fingers crossed Bird would somehow come out of this mess with a chance of rebuilding his career. The lesson, as always: never pin your hopes on someone selfish enough to use his friend as the fall guy for his own mistakes) July (0-3) Ã¢Â€Â¢ After embarking on a tidy four-game winning streak, the Sharks go through their second win-less month of the season. Somehow, they manage to score 26 points in a game (against Manly in Round 19) but still lose because itÃ¢Â€Â™s impossible for them to play good offense and good defence on the same day. Ã¢Â€Â¢ Rookie half back Scott Porter, one of the few bright spots for the Sharks during the season from hell, suddenly loses his mother to depression. At this stage, weÃ¢Â€Â™re completely convinced this is the worst season in our clubÃ¢Â€Â™s history. Ã¢Â€Â¢ As the Sharks get smoked 30-10 by the Melbourne Storm at Olympic Park, star recruit Trent Barrett goes down for the season after fracturing a cheekbone and eye socket. Ricky Stuart promptly goes on the record to describe 2009 as the Ã¢Â€Âœworst season I have seenÃ¢Â€Â. Somewhere, Gus Gould secretly lights a celebratory cigar after reading StickyÃ¢Â€Â™s article. August (0-4) Ã¢Â€Â¢ On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the Sharks get pummeled at home 30-0 by a revitalised Parramatta Eels outfit. I knew we wouldnÃ¢Â€Â™t make it through the season without eventually getting shut out. Ã¢Â€Â¢ The Sharks follow up their home debacle against the Eels by returning to Toyota Park a fortnight later and being demoralised by Benji Marshall and the Wests Tigers 56-10. The best part of all that? We still werenÃ¢Â€Â™t the worst team of the round. That honour went to the Panthers. Ã¢Â€Â¢ The Gold Coast Titans roast the Sharks at Skilled Park 20-10, leaving Cronulla on the verge of their third win-less month of the season (and second straight) with a combined For and Against of 30-136 in the month of August (to date). You know what the saddest part of that whole timeline is? ItÃ¢Â€Â™s that I couldÃ¢Â€Â™ve easily thrown in a handful of other things that went wrong during the season. If anything, thatÃ¢Â€Â™s an abridged timeline of the season from hell. In fact, thatÃ¢Â€Â™s the perfect way to describe this season: The Season From Hell. In many ways, it had become the ultimate litmus test for the Cronulla faithful. If you could survive this season without committing fan-hood suicide, you could survive any season. Which leads to a question my buddy Scottie asked me straight after the Tigers drubbing: What do we do now? ItÃ¢Â€Â™s one of those definitive questions Sharks fans ask themselves every September. What happens now? Do we come back next year and try climbing the mountain again? Do we take a year off, and invest ourselves into something with better odds of working out? HereÃ¢Â€Â™s what I did: I got my paws on a Sharks Heritage Jersey that was signed by each of the players involved in the Season From Hell. IÃ¢Â€Â™m going to frame that sucker and mount it on my office wall next to all my other sports memorabilia from across the years, with a plaque that reads like this: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 2009 The Season From Hell I donÃ¢Â€Â™t care how stupid it looks, IÃ¢Â€Â™m going to do it. When all my buddies come over, IÃ¢Â€Â™m going to make them all look at it - especially if they support another club and donÃ¢Â€Â™t appreciate what they have. ItÃ¢Â€Â™ll be amusing and confusing all at the same time. IÃ¢Â€Â™m going to leave a blank space next to that jersey, and when the Sharks eventually DO win their first ever Premiership -- you know, assuming it ever happens in my lifetime -- I'll buy that jersey and itÃ¢Â€Â™ll take its rightful place next to the Season From Hell jersey, with some sort of redemptive plaque nailed to it. And thatÃ¢Â€Â™s when seasons like this will feel like it was all worth it. Fingers crossed. Jardian Ormsby writes the Sports Neo column at SportsNeo.com. He also authors the popular Ã¢Â€ÂœFantasy Killed My HSCÃ¢Â€Â blog.