In their 50th year, and at a time in their history where many NRL fans have no love for them, the Cronulla Sharks are into the NRL Grand Final.
The Sharks eliminated premiers the North Queensland Cowboys 32-20 in a dominant performance at Sydney's Allianz Stadium.
During last week's epic extra time match between the Cowboys and the Brisbane Broncos, pundits were saying long before full-time the eventual winner would struggle to get up again the following week. So it proved. The Cowboys looked exhausted from the opening whistle and were never a real chance.
Give Cronulla credit. They've had a great season. They went through a flat patch in the last few rounds, but found form in the first finals match against the Raiders, coming from 12-0 down to win.
On Friday night they could have had three or four tries early but were denied either by narrow misses or the video ref. The Sharks of old might have lost their cool. But they held their nerve and when the first try came, others soon followed.
The final score flattered the Cowboys, who scored the last three tries.
"The Shire's going nuts at the moment and no doubt they'll turn it on next week," Sharks playmaker James Maloney said after the game.
He's not wrong about that. And the people of the Sutherland Shire in Sydney's south won't give a hoot if nobody likes them.
If the Shire is the part of Sydney that the rest of the city likes to make fun of, the Sharks have become the team that other league fans sneer at. Mostly this is down to the personalities. The Sharks have become a sort of halfway house for the sort of people you'd be loathe to take home and meet your mum.
Top of the list is captain Paul Gallen, who despite being NSW State of Origin skipper, has never been a figure outsiders have warmed to. Sharks enforcer Andrew Fifita has more indiscretions than we can fit on this page -- and it's an an internet page, where technically the space is limitless. Go through the list and there are plenty more. Google Michael Ennis is you need convincing.
Then of course there was the supplements scandal in 2013, involving the same "sports scientist" who was implicated in the Essendon scandal, Stephen Dank. And remember Todd Carney's choice of beverage when he played down Cronulla way?
But who in the Shire tonight cares what anyone else thinks? The Sharks are into their fourth grand final and have the chance to win their first, and that's all that matters. They'll play the winner of Saturday night's match between the Canberra Raiders and the Melbourne Storm.Suggest a correction