Our history was never a burden: Gallen
He spoke of Harold Holt's porch light as he waited to become the first Cronulla captain to lift the NRL Telstra Premiership trophy but Paul Gallen insists the club's tortured past has never been a burden on he or the history-making playing group.
Three times runners-up and once a financially unstable entity being touted for a new home in far-flung locales, in 50 years of supporting their team Sharks fans had never – until now – stood tallest as NRL champions.
The promise of success lured Gallen from junior representative teams in the Parramatta district to the Shire way back in 2001 but as good as the teams were that had been assembled over the years, only one had ever made it to a grand final, in the Super League decider of 1997.
Club legends such as Steve Rogers, Greg Pierce, Gavin Miller and Andrew Ettingshausen had given their all to be part of Cronulla's first premiership team but it took a mix of old hard heads and some brilliant youngsters to end five decades of torment with their thrilling 14-12 win over the Storm on Sunday night.
For the past 15 years Gallen has been the public face of a club whose future has in recent times not appeared completely secure and was ripped apart by the supplements scandal that ruined two seasons, yet he has remained steadfast in his love for the club.
Admitting that he was "a bit scared" at the size of the celebrations that would be awaiting them on the other side of the Captain Cook Bridge, Gallen said that the club's lack of success had never weighed heavily on him.
"There's a bit of relief now but it was never a burden for myself or this current playing group," Gallen said of Cronulla's history.
"We couldn't control what's happened in the past. I've been here for the last 15 years so I've been a part of everything that's happened, but the last couple of years we've really built for this year and I'm really happy that the boys played the way they did.
"It came down to desire and wanting it more and I think that was the difference tonight.
"They were minor premiers in '99 and blokes like [Andrew Ettingshausen] and David Peachey and Jason Stevens were the reason I signed with the club.
"I remember they could never get beat down at Shark Park at the time and that was the reason I signed there.
"I debuted in 2001 and they almost made the grand final, played in a grand final qualifier in 2002 and you just think it's going to happen.
"We all know the history, it hasn't [happened], and I'm just happy for blokes like that to be able to enjoy tonight."
After dominating the first 60 minutes of the grand final Gallen had a flashback to a Round 25 match in 2012 between the two sides when Will Chambers crossed to give the Storm a 12-8 lead with 15 minutes left to play.
Four years ago Melbourne had fought back from an 18-10 deficit to win 20-18 on the bell and, if only for a moment, Gallen was worried history was going to repeat in the cruellest of ways.
"There was a game a couple of years ago in Melbourne and we were winning 20-12 with two minutes to go and they scored two tries in the last two minutes and I was just thinking of that," Gallen said.
"It means so much to us, the club, to all the former players who busted their backsides for the place.
"This club and this brand has got to be one of the most resilient brands in Australian sport. It's been broke, gone broke three or four times, we had all those dramas a few years ago, people trying to destroy the club and destroy individuals and we just kept turning up and going out week after week.
"Right from November last year we had belief that we could finish top four and then we wanted to be minor premiers and once the semi-finals came around we knew that if we played our game that we could win.
"That first week they played down in Canberra I was in hospital, couldn't walk and I remember just sitting on my lounge and I was in tears after that game, the effort they put in.
"It means everything to me personally. It's the final piece of the puzzle for me, winning Origin and playing at every level and now winning a competition, it's the final piece and I wouldn't be here without the boys out there.
"They were so good. They were so good all year and particularly the last three weeks. I couldn't be more proud of them."