Last one to leave, turn out the porch light!
RLW goes inside the jubilation of a celebration 50 years in the making
IF THERE WAS ONE BLOKE WHO dominated conversation in the build-up to Sunday’s grand final more than Paul Gallen or Cameron Smith, Mick Ennis or Cooper Cronk, it was Harold Holt. Jack Gibson’s throwaway one-liner took on a life of its own in grand final week — #LeaveYourPorchLightOn trended on Twitter, one company produced T-shirts of Holt in the style of an old Scanlens footy card, and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph tracked down a grandson of the disappeared PM, who now resides in the Shire.
There were even giant cut-out posters of Holt’s smiling face sprinkled around ANZ Stadium as Paul Gallen declared on the winner’s podium after the tense 14-12 victory: “To all you people in the Shire, turn your porch lights off because we’re coming home with the trophy!”
The weight of the 50 years that light’s been flickering isn’t lost on back-rower Wade Graham.
“I just posted a photo on my Instagram saying someone can turn that ****ing light off, mate. I’m bloody sick of hearing about it,” he grins.
“It’s something that will go down in the history books, and to be a part of it, I’m just so grateful.”
If the feeling in the Cowboys sheds a year ago was a “mission accomplished”, the atmosphere among the Sharks last Sunday was unfettered joy.
The victors drenched all and sundry in champagne during a rendition of Up, Up
Cronulla so intense it endangered eardrums. Graham sings with particular gusto having been bitten harder than most by the ASADA drugs scandal — hung out to dry by the tabloids for rocking up to an interview in thongs and trackies, tossed the captaincy aged only 23 the week Cronulla moved onto their third coach in eighth months midway through 2014, then being one of 10 Sharks to cop a backdated 12-month ban.
During the post-match press conference, Gallen describes his club as one of the most resilient brands in Australian sport – a quality Cronulla’s captain-in-waiting possesses in spades.
“It just makes it more worthwhile now, mate. It makes it worth it,” Graham reflects.
“You remember what you’re there for and why you kept going, why you kept battling on, why you kept going every week – you keep looking forward to a moment right like this.”
As celebrations raged, there were unsubstantiated reports that Harold Holt was spotted swimming into Botany Bay before making a beeline to Northies for a celebratory beer with the thousands of Sharks tragics who’ve been waiting half a century to see him re-emerge.
“Cronulla’s probably going off at the moment. Aw mate, it’d be going off!” says Graham, standing in a puddle of champagne.
“We felt the support. We felt it starting to build throughout the year and tonight they were unbelievable and I’m just so happy we could give them something to cheer about.
“I don’t even know if we’ll make it into the Shire, it’ll be chaos down there!”
LONG TIME COMING! If there’s ever been a louder and happier rendition of a club song than what the Sharkies turned out last Sunday night, RLW has never heard it!