Moylan has last laugh as he torments his former club
Former Panthers skipper Matt Moylan returned to Penrith for the first time and tormented his old club.
Not a five-eighth, they said. Well, he did his best to prove them wrong in the 24-12 win over Penrith. The one-time Panthers pin-up boy, once signed to a mega-dollar five-year deal, was meant to be the captain for a generation.
Now here he was 18 months later in the black, white, and blue of Cronulla and guiding them nicely towards the club's second premiership in three years.
"It was a bit different coming back here playing for the opposition and being in opposition sheds," Moylan said after the match.
"It's definitely something new to me but I was excited about it."
But tension between the Panthers and Sharks goes well beyond Moylan trading the west for waves at the end of last year.
Remember the last time these two teams met at Penrith Stadium? When Cronulla players yelled out "Three cheers for Gus" after their post-match victory song last year?
That was a shot at Penrith general manager Phil Gould and direct retaliation to comments that their 2016 title was a "soft" premiership.
Captain Paul Gallen and Sharks coach Shane Flanagan both took aim at the Panthers following that match in belief that they had been disrespected by the Panthers for providing their families with general admission tickets on the hill.
Don't forget the long-standing tension between Gould and Sharks skipper Gallen, who has often been at the forefront of Gould's criticism of a selfish culture amongst previous NSW Blues teams.
There's also James Segeyaro, who, like Sharks veteran Luke Lewis many years ago, was shown the door by the Panthers in 2016.
Not to mention the fact Cronulla stole Penrith junior Wade Graham from the club as a teenager what seems like an eternity ago. It was in 2011.
"Obviously we've recruited a few of their players to our club and they've got Jimmy [Maloney] here," Flanagan said.
"Gus living in the Shire and running Penrith as well. There's always that bit of [feeling] about the clubs. It's good to have."
But the freshest in the mind of the fans was the betrayal of their one-time captain, who left a sour taste in the mouth of those that once adored him with the manner in which he departed the club last year.
They let him know about it too, booing him from the moment he first touched the ball until the full time whistle.
"I sort of expected it but I thought it would stop after a while," Moylan admitted.
"That's part of rugby league. I enjoyed that. It's something you just have to take and roll with the punches."
Rookie Penrith forward Jack Hetherington put a heavy shot on him in the first half and was perhaps the trigger for Andrew Fifita to push the youngster in the back on the way up the tunnel at halftime.
Unfortunately for Penrith, the cursing and heavy contact did little to put Moylan off his game.
His kicking game was on song, forcing repeat sets and even an error from debutant Panthers fullback Caleb Aekins with a towering torpedo bomb in the opening half.
He played a hand in the Sharks' second try of the night, linking up with Graham and Valentine Holmes to produce a Melbourne-like outside-inside play before half time.
The Sharks produced the near identical play in the second half with the same result, but this time it was Moylan who finished off the move to cross the line and rile the crowd by launch the ball on the southern hill.
Moylan says he threw the ball at his brother and friends.
"They've always been down there and I said to them if I was able to get across the line - I hadn't scored all year so I was definitely going to celebrate it. But knowing they were down there, I was going to carry on a bit."
"Moylan's a w-----," began echoing around Panthers Stadium.
But once again the jeers were to no avail, with Moylan streaking away in the dying minutes after slicing past Trent Merrin and Tyrone May to put Holmes in under the post to seal the victory.
He who laughs last, laughs loudest. And on this particular night, it was Moylan’s booming Johnathan Thurston-like laugh that was ringing around Penrith.
But perhaps the jury is still out on who got the better end of the James Maloney-Matt Moylan swap deal.
"Jimmy's a great player ... everyone seems to forget the reason Jimmy isn't at our club," Flanagan said.
"He wanted a two-or-three-year extension and upgrade - and coming off a grand final ... money doesn't grow on trees. I wish it did. We just couldn't afford to do it. It was a salary cap decision that we weren't going to go that way.
"We knew he was a great player. He's doing a great job out here and did a great job for NSW. But I think we've got a really handy replacement as well. He's a little bit younger. He's doing a really good job for us."