From this far away, the NRL grand final tomorrow night offers two distinct supporting options for the neutral.

In one corner is a team who have won the title four times - but only two count outside Melbourne, for salary cap rort reasons - are formidably good and will win anything resembling an arm wrestle, but don't feel much love outside its constituency.

In the other, there's a team who are far more watchable, loaded with players who possess more flair and joie de vivre (if that is an appropriate descripton for a team whose number include one Paul Gallen) than their opponents, and who would win the sympathy vote for their inability to have won even one title to date.

So where do you go? Do you lean towards the side with winning experience on Australasian league's grandest stage (you can't say the world stage because Wembley is a big deal up north and I don't care what the NRL apologists' say, a World Cup final should be the pinnacle for any player with a smidgen of national pride, but I digress.)?


Or should sentimentality play a part?

The Sharks, admitted to the competition in 1967, then known as the New South Wales Rugby League, have made two finals, in 1973 and 1978, losing both contentiously to the Sea Eagles. The first was a brutal, knock 'em down scrap, 10-7, the second, in a replay after an 11-all draw where colourful referee Greg Hartley's performance was the centre of attention. Other than the Sharks, only relative newbies the Gold Coast Titans and the Warriors have yet to win the crown.

The Storm, who won the minor premiership, demand admiration for their discipline, their adherence to the game plan and the crushing efficiency of their defence. Add in champion playmakers in Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, the best prop in the business, Kiwi Jesse Bromwich, and a clutch of players you'd pass in the street without recognising, but whom you'd want alongside you.

The Sharks have a pack of varying skills, from grunters Gallen and Andrew Fifita, to ball-playing Wade Graham and reliable Luke Lewis. Ben Barba at fullback, can be a bobby dazzler and former Warriors James Maloney and Chad Townsend are proving a quality coupling.

The problem for them is they also possess a clutch of players who polarise opinion, none more so than Fifita. He's the guy who inscribed the initials of a one-punch killer on his wristband recently in support of the thug, and who seems completely unapologetic over a range of actions which have drawn heavy criticism.

Throw in gobby veteran Michael Ennis, Maloney and Gallen and they make the Sharks a hard love to have.

But the Sharks it is in this corner, if tossed out there with more hope than absolute certainty.

Titles should be shared for the good of a competition. Hegemony gets boring. Ask anyone outside Auckland or Canterbury rugby fans in the 1980s and 90s. After Canterbury lifted the Ranfurly Shield from Waikato this week, a voice with a Taranaki twang muttered: "Anyone but Canterbury."

So the Sharks it is.