When the Cronulla Sharks attempt to win their first premiership on Sunday night, they’re not just doing it for themselves, their families, the fans and the club.
The past greats that wore the Sharks jumper with pride but came up agonisingly short of grand final glory will be riding their former club home in the decider against Melbourne at ANZ Stadium.
Steve Rogers, Greg Pierce, Gavin Miller and Andrew Ettingshausen all came within touching distance of a watershed triumph with Cronulla from the 1970s-1990s – but there’s few Sharks players that endured more post-season heartbreak than brilliant fullback David Peachey.
The long-striding No.1, who scored 110 tries in 232 games for the Sharks, featured in the club’s 1997 grand final loss and a further four preliminary final defeats during his 12-season tenure in the Shire.
The Dubbo product starred as the Sharks stormed into the 1996 preliminary final – their first in eight years – where they met a rampant Manly, who swept them aside 24-0.
Peachey’s scrum move try in the sudden-death semi win over Brisbane ranks among Cronulla’s finest finals moments.
He was powerless to stop the Broncos juggernaut in the ’97 Super League decider, but it looked as if the Sharks’ ship had come in when they took out the minor premiership two years later…until they met Anthony Mundine in the preliminary final, capitulating 24-8 after leading 8-0 at halftime.
The Dally M Fullback in 1999-2000 – as well as making his only NSW Origin appearance in the latter year – Peachey took over as Sharks skipper in 2001 and was named Captain of the Year, but more preliminary final pain awaited, this time courtesy of an 18-10 loss to Newcastle.
Peachey led the Sharks to another preliminary final in 2002, but the Warriors trumped them 16-10 in a classic at Homebush.
He and hooker Dean Treister were the only players to feature in all four prelim defeats and the grand final loss between ’96 and ’02.
Peachey left the Sharks after their qualifying final exit at the hands of the Dragons in 2005, finishing an unforgettable career with two seasons at South Sydney.
No doubt the magical ‘Peach’ will be cheering on the Sharks this weekend with more than a little tinge of what might have been from his 17 finals matches in the blue, black and white.