Time grinds when your favourite sports team is imploding. This can happen in any manner of ways, be it consecutive losses, player injuries and just as depressing for the fan, off field indiscretions. The latter can be the worst, in fact, because when a highly paid athlete runs amok, is arrested by the cops, or photographed in a compromising situation, there’s little to reconcile a fan’s emotions. At least an injury is out of our hands, indeed out of everybody’s hands.
But time can speed up again, and rather quickly, when negatives drop away from memory and your team starts finding – tripping almost – into success. Only two years ago, players from the Cronulla Sharks rugby league club in southern Sydney faced doping allegations, sponsors were pulling out of their commitments and it felt as though the Sharkies, as they’re called locally, might be left at sea – for good. But investigations were made, punishments were issued, and sins were forgiven. Now, as if it never happened, the Sharks are perhaps the NRL’s best club. They’re fast, tough on defence, clever with their passing and can run up the score in a moment. In an outing against the routinely tough Canterbury Bulldogs, and staring down the barrel of another close loss, the Sharks kept coming up field, pressing, never relenting and sniffing for points. Eventually they spun the ball wide where their men overlapped the Dogs, and their striding winger went into the corner. The celebration was grand, and seemed to stand for so much more than just four points. It set the team up for the win, with a conversion kick, but also propelled them to the front of the pack, an impossibility just 24 months ago.
Now, at season’s end, they’re grand finalists. And so in their example, there’s so much to be said for persistence, sometimes, even more so than sheer talent. Not that Cronulla is short on that either. It’s been quite a year, one of the best in the club’s 50 years.