David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

David Skipwith: Cronulla's grand final win continues fairytale tradition

The Cronulla Sharks break into song and kickoff their celebrations following Sunday's historic 14-12 NRL grand final win over Melbourne. Photo / Photosport.
The Cronulla Sharks break into song and kickoff their celebrations following Sunday's historic 14-12 NRL grand final win over Melbourne. Photo / Photosport.

Cronulla's maiden NRL premiership win over Melbourne continued the recent trend of fairytale endings being served up on grand final day.

The Sharks were deservedly crowned 2016 champions after overturning an 8-12 deficit late in the second-half against the Storm, the best defensive side of the NRL era, to end 49-years of heartache and claim their first title victory as 14-12 winners.

After fighting back from 8-0 at halftime, Melbourne looked set to break the hearts of the majority of the 83,625 strong ANZ Stadium crowd backing the hometown team, before rampaging forward Andrew Fifita's 69th minute try helped the Sharks peg back a match-winning four-point lead.

Whether you are a Cronulla fan or not, the emotional post-match scenes of captain Paul Gallen in tears, having triumphed in his first grand final after 15 seasons as a one-club legend, and retiring hooker Michael Ennis bowing out a winner in his 273rd and final match, was great theatre.

The result followed the dramatic fairytale finishes in the previous two grand finals, that saw Sam Burgess ignore the pain of a broken cheekbone to inspire South Sydney to their first title win in 43-years in 2014, before Johnathan Thurston's extra- time field goal secured North Queensland's maiden premiership last year, in what many consider to be the greatest grand final ever played.

Sunday's clash was a far more dour affair and one of the most physical decider's in recent memory but it still contained plenty of exciting football with only terrific defence from both teams preventing more tries from being scored.

There's a long list of reasons why plenty of people find the Sharks a tough team to like and you can pick from any of the following - Todd Carney's disgraceful end to his time at the club in 2014, the same year the club finished as wooden spooners after almost being buried under the ASADA scandal, and their cast of perceived villains, headed by the hardnosed Gallen, along with 'Ennis the Menace', and the controversial Fifita - supporter of one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge.

The side's renown grinding style of play has also rubbed fans the wrong way but despite all the associated negatives, you have to applaud coach Shane Flanagan - who sat out the 2014 campaign while serving a suspension for his part in the supplements scandal - for turning the club's fortunes around over the last two seasons.

Their historic victory comes not only as a boost to the club but will also inject some pride and positive association into the Cronulla Sutherland Shire's beach community, that over the past 11 years has carried the weight of negative publicity resulting from the 2005 race riots.

Beating the Storm, the benchmark side of the competition over the past decade and minor premiers in their seventh grand final appearance, was no small feat. But to be the best you have to beat the best, and in doing so Cronulla proved their legitimacy as NRL champions.

There's also a message of hope, or a warning (you choose), for both critics and supporters of the Warriors, who feel hard done by after 21-years without success.

Cronulla have shown that simply being a part of the NRL competition does not guarantee success but as their long-awaited win proves, there is plenty to be said for persistence, resilience and never giving up.

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