Sharks about to knock on PM Morrison's door
The Cronulla Sharks are preparing to meet with the federal government over the club's proposed centre of excellence they would like to begin constructing in late 2019.
And that meeting could not have come at a better time with the Sharks' No.1 supporter Scott Morrison moving from federal Treasurer to the top job of Prime Minister.
"That's a very positive change," CEO Barry Russell told NRL.com.
"From a club's point of view we're delighted that Scott is one of our very proud supporters. He's been to all the games, was in the sheds for the 2016 grand final, so it's a real thrill for us to see him get the top job."
And just quietly, it might help with the CEO's plans for a vacant block of land at Sutherland.
"We've just about finalised our complete plan to present to the federal government regarding some federal funding," Russell said.
"We're ticking all the boxes. It's been a bit of a slow progress but we're moving forward."
The NSW Government has already put up $8 million. The Sharks would like the federal government to top that amount.
The schedule is to have all the funding in place by mid-2019 so construction can start by the end of next year.
The facility would not only be the new home for the Sharks football teams, it would be hope for other sports and clubs as well – hence the value of government dollars being invested.
Of a more pressing nature is the Sharks' front-of-jersey sponsorship, which Opal Solar is not renewing for 2019 due to financial considerations by company owners.
Russell would have liked a new sponsor signed up already, as the deadlines loom for the 2019 merchandise range to be manufactured.
He hopes to have a new major sponsor by the end of the NRL finals.
"Our major sponsor has informed us that from a business point of view, they need to step back from being the major [sponsor]," Russell said.
"They still want to be involved so they're having a look at other positions [sleeve, back of jersey, shorts] on our gear. We're in discussions with them on that.
"We've been talking to a few other companies and hopefully over the next month, considering what we've got ahead of us, that will be the catalyst for someone jumping on board."
Cronulla moving from sixth to fourth on the Telstra Premiership ladder sure helped as well. The possibility of a second premiership in two years would be tantalising for any prospective sponsor.
"It was always our goal to finish in the top four. To give yourself every chance of being there on grand final day you need to be in the four," Russell said.
"From a team point of view and a club point of view, that was always our goal."
There was tremendous expectation on the shoulders of Paul Gallen and his team in 2016. The pressure to do it again in 2018 could be just as immense.
"We can handle it. This is a journey and a new season and it's a vastly different squad. There's a whole lot of reasons to play for other than fulfilling expectations," Russell said.
The window of opportunity could be closing as Luke Lewis retires, while exciting backs Edrik Lee and Jesse Ramien move to Newcastle and premiership-winning utility Joseph Paulo is off to St Helens.
"We've got a really good group here. Yes, some are moving on and one is retiring, but there are kids coming through like Kyle [Flanagan]," Russell said.
"So the whole dynamic around the team and the club means we're in a good space. Our brand is well-known and admired."