NRL: Sharks on the verge of history after 14th straight win

By Alex McLeod

Jack Bird of the Sharks celebrates the team's win over the Bulldogs earlier in the season. Photo / Getty Images
Jack Bird of the Sharks celebrates the team's win over the Bulldogs earlier in the season. Photo / Getty Images

Just two years, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks finished at the bottom of the NRL table, claiming the wooden spoon with a measly five wins from their 24 games.

Now, they are undefeated in their last 14 NRL games, sitting atop of the NRL ladder, and are on the verge of breaking a record that has lasted 41 years in the NRL.

The club that was once embroiled in a supplements saga that heavily contributed to their demise in the 2014 season have their sights set on breaking the premiership record for most consecutive wins, a record currently held by Easts, now known as the Sydney Roosters, who won 19 games on the trot as part of an incredibly dominant couple of seasons across 1974 and 1975.

During those two years, Easts won 39 of the 44 games they played, claiming both the minor premierships and grand finals in both of those two seasons, as well as setting the currently unbeaten record of most consecutive games won in the league.

Fast forward just over four decades later, and the Sharks are looking in sharp form while becoming just the third side this century to claim 14 consecutive victories.

Their vicotry last night, a hard-fought 32-20 win over the Roosters at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, put them on par with the South Sydney Rabbitohs of the 1932 and 1955/56 seasons for most consecutive wins.

There are only a select group of teams who can better what the Sharks have currently achieved so far this season.

That group includes the aforementioned Easts side of 1975, the 2002 Bulldogs side that was docked all their points following a salary-cap scandal, and the title-winning Manly Sea Eagles side of 1995.

However, unlike many of the sides that have won 14 or more consecutive games in the NRL, the Sharks have had to overcome adversity to get to the position they are currently in.

The supplements saga of 2014 resulted in a demoralising and disastrous sequence of events both on and off the field.

Off the field, suspensions were handed out to many past and present players, including influential captain Paul Gallen, as well as a 12-month suspension to head coach Shane Flanagan, while the club were fined $1 million by the NRL.

On the field, the Sharks endured thumpings at the hands of other teams, being held scoreless three times in a row at one point, while the worst of their 19 losses came in the form of a 48-6 thrashing at the hands of the Melbourne Storm in round 23.

These sequence of events off the field and horrific results on the field culminated in the Sharks picking up the wooden spoon, their worst result since 1969.

Two years later, and the Sharks look like a completely different outfit compared to that of 2014.

Key performances this season from the likes of James Maloney and Valentine Holmes, two players currently sitting second in the leaderboard for most points and most tries scored this season, along with the leadership of Gallen and Flanagan have been key contributing factors to the revival of the Sharks.

Many will consider this rvival to be complete if the table-toppers push on to break the long-standing record of 19 unbeaten games on the trot.

And who would bet against it?

In their next four games, they face the Knights, Titans, Raiders and Dragons, all teams of which they defeated, most of them comfortably.

They then go on to finish the season with games against the Rabbitohs, Roosters and Storm, with the latter providing the only real threat to their unbeaten run of late.

Nevertheless, whether the Sharkies go on unbeaten en route to winning the title or fall to one of the aforementioned sides, their inspired form this season is a fine example of overcoming adversity, and is a story that should be revered by league and sports fans alike.

- NZ Herald

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