NRL 2 years ago

Why the 2016 NRL Grand Final was so special

  • Why the 2016 NRL Grand Final was so special

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Paul Gallen of the Sharks celebrates winning the 2016 NRL Grand Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

  • Why the 2016 NRL Grand Final was so special

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Michael Ennis of the Sharks offloads the ball during the 2016 NRL Grand Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

  • Why the 2016 NRL Grand Final was so special

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Sharks players sing the national anthem before the 2016 NRL Grand Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

  • Why the 2016 NRL Grand Final was so special

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Sharks players run onto the field before the 2016 NRL Grand Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

  • Why the 2016 NRL Grand Final was so special

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Sharks players sing the national anthem before the 2016 NRL Grand Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

  • Why the 2016 NRL Grand Final was so special

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Storm players sing the national anthem before the 2016 NRL Grand Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

  • Why the 2016 NRL Grand Final was so special

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Sharks fans show their support during the 2016 NRL Grand Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

  • Why the 2016 NRL Grand Final was so special

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 02: Matt Geyer and Andrew Ettingshausen carry the Premiership trophy before the 2016 NRL Grand Final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

80 minutes are up and the entire Shire breathe a sigh of relief as the NRL Telstra Premiership is theirs for the first time.

Truly one of the great grand finals of all time.

The crowd of 83,625 never let up in this pulsating encounter which delivered what it promised and what the fans deserved. Neither team ever looked certain victors yet that's what made this Grand Final so special.

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As a Parra supporter through and through, I started attending games in 2004 on a consistent basis and managed to attend the heartbreaking 2009 decider against the Melbourne Storm which we lost 23-16. When I found out my Dad had purchased tickets two weeks prior to this year's finale, I wasn't going to pass the opportunity up. I missed the excitement of attending Grand Final Day.

I'd been to two already - Tigers vs Cowboys in 2005 and Parra vs Storm in 2009. I was ecstatic to find out I would be attending, to possibly be in the presence of a slice of history.  Cronulla, a side I'd always admit to having a soft spot for due to their lack of success and my Mother's history of supporting them, were preparing for a Preliminary final. It was also an added bonus that it was the club of one of my best mates and his long-suffering Father. Although there would be the later consequence of constant bragging..

Put simply, the prospect of witnessing them lift their maiden trophy appealed to me immensely. Fortunately, the Sharks downed the Cowboys in the Grand Final Qualifier while the Storm outmuscled the Canberra Raiders. A week of hiding my excitement quickly came to a close as gameday loomed. The day before, the Western Bulldogs broke a 62 year drought without a title in the AFL. Surely this was an omen heading into the NRL clash?

 Approaching 2pm, we arrive at ANZ Stadium and there is already a crowd of supporters across the Olympic Park precinct. A variety of fan activities occurred while young kids swapped goal kicking duties in a virtual goalkicking competition. Not just Sharks or Storm supporters are outside the ground either. Almost every team in the competition was represented by other fans that were attending the game as neutral spectators, simply for the huge occasion that it is.

The Holden Cup Final is won in a boil-over as the Sydney Roosters came from 28-6 down to defeat the hot favourites, the Penrith Panthers 30-28. The Illawarra Cutters tore apart the Burleigh Bears, 54-12 in the State Championship as the crowd continued to build.

A herd of purple was beginning to form behind the goalposts at the southern end. However when you looked around the ground, they were outnumbered by a sea of blue, white and black.

Pre-match entertainment received mixed criticism after it came and went but before we knew it the main event was finally upon us. Paul Gallen led his Sharks side out to a rapturous roar while Cameron Smith took his Storm team out to a chorus of boos.

The crowd erupted when Ben Barba scored the first and only try of the first half as Sharks fans were beginning to murmur “Just 40 minutes away" when the players returned to the sheds. Oh, how long 40 minutes can be. Jesse Bromwich crashed over and Will Chambers found the line and the Sharks were quickly behind 12-8 with the roar of the Storm contingent in the crowd, deafening. Where was the inspiration going to come from for the proud Sharkies?

A man who has been in the media for the wrong reasons lately, Andrew Fifita, that's who. The representative prop bustled past a number of Storm defenders to reach out and plant the ball down in a superhuman effort. This Grand Final corker of a try brought the score to 14-12 after James Maloney's conversion. 

Surely the fairytale was going to happen now.

It wasn't all that safe yet, though. As the clock ticked down, the Storm had one last chance.

Coming from their own half with a full set and 50 seconds to go, the Storm led by seasoned veterans, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith work their way up field as the whole stadium rises together to nervously oversee the final plays. Storm throw the ball around, player to player, offload after offload.

“Put him down! Tackle him!” are the desperate shouts. For a moment it looks as though Melbourne are going to pull off a miracle that the North Queensland Cowboys would be proud of. However Storm's departing winger Marika Koroibete is finally brought to ground, thus ending the Sharks’ 49-year wait for the first premiership.

Beers are thrown skywards, spraying on the emotional Sharks supporters who couldn't care less about the sticky mess.

It's the moment they've all waited for at the Shire.

So many feel good stories to speak about.

Ben Barba, unwanted at Brisbane two years ago found redemption. Michael Ennis wins his first ever Premiership in his final NRL game. Beloved captain, Paul Gallen finally lifts the coveted Provan-Summons trophy for the Shire after it has weighed heavily on him for so long.

It was pure elation amongst the Sharks supporters. Such an incredible game to witness live, my legs were shaking endlessly as I willed home the team for my Mum and for the players that it would mean so much for.

Tears flowed around the ground for such a magnificent victory as the final whistle is blown.

It's finally been done.

The heavy trophy was lifted by 'Gal’ but the heroic skipper wouldn't have felt a thing.

As every Sharks fan was lifting it up with him.

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