I should begin this story be absolutely reaffirming that I am and always will be a Parramatta Eels supporter first.
Over the last 24 hours though, you may have seen me out and about in a Cronulla Sharks scarf. You may have heard me singing ‘up, up Cronulla’. You may have seen me celebrating as if it was my team that had just won a Grand Final.
Last night, it was not my team that won a Grand Final, but the Cronulla Sharks are always a team that have always been special to me. Last night’s victory meant a tremendous deal to me and I would like to share why.
Firstly, the Sharks have been a Club that I have had the opportunity to work closely with over the last year. Their players and their staff have always been extremely supportive of me and of Ladies who League and it is truly appreciated.
A very special group of staff work at the Sharks, including people like Jess Goddard, Jess Ciccia, Brad Pettitt, Toby Bonning, Gabriella Fitzpatrick and Kirin Lindop. These people not only work at the Sharks but are people I am proud to call my friends. I have seen how hard they have worked this year and to see them successful on rugby league’s biggest stage was truly joyous.
Another reason I was overjoyed to see the Sharks successful was because this is a club that is truly a leader when it comes to women in league. It was the Sharks who this year announced the formation of a women’s nines team before any other team. It will be Southern Cross Stadium which will host the majority of the women’s Rugby League World Cup next year and the Sharks are the place where women like Ruan Sims, Allana Ferguson and Sammy Bremner call home.
Any club which shows such commitment to women in league is one which I can certainly throw my support behind.
Then there are the players. Over the years the Sharks has been a club where several Parramatta players have gone towards the end of their career. Any club which has had men like Jeff Robson, John Morris, Eric Grothe Junior and Michael Gordon as part of its ranks is worth celebrating. But players like Chris Heighington, Luke Lewis, Chad Townsend and Michael Ennis are also players which I have also learned to love and respect. This victory meant so much to all of them and their extraordinary families as well.
In particular, I would like to mention Luke Lewis and his wife Sonia who I am proud to call friends. Luke and Sonia are amazing people. Truly giving, generous and extraordinary ambassadors for the game of rugby league. Earlier this year, Luke and Sonia welcomed their first child, Hazel. She was indeed, the Sharks good luck charm.
But there is one more reason and it is because I truly do believe in fairy tales.
The Sharks are a team who had never won a Premiership – this was indeed their time.
There’s one person in particular who was watching from above last night and who I truly believe in his own small way, played a part in the Sharks victory yesterday.
My friend Marc Leabeater was a massive Sharks fan. Indeed, the rest of his family still are.
Marc was a talented lawyer, an exceptional athlete and had a passion for life unrivalled by almost anyone else I have ever met.
Marc was taken from us 2 years ago in a tragic motorcycle accident, where he was killed instantly as a young woman knocked him off his bike late at night (through no fault of his own).
Thanks to the NRL, yesterday Marc’s family was at the Grand Final and I had the opportunity to celebrate with them as the Sharks lifted the trophy for the first time in their history.
Marc was with me yesterday. His presence haunted me.
And when the final siren went, I openly wept. That victory was for him.
I miss my friend every single day and almost no more than yesterday when his beloved Sharkies finally got that victory they deserved.
So forgive me if you see me in a Sharks hat over the next couple of days – it’s my small way of honouring my friend Marc, who I still miss every single day.
Ladies who League xxx