One major signing can go a long way to building a premiership winning team.
One creative half, one hulking forward, or one speedy outside back, can completely change the complexion of a team’s roster.
Johnathan Thurston’s signing saw the Cowboys transform from NRL whipping boys into genuine contenders, into NRL premiers.
Could Melbourne possibly have been so successful had they not unearthed a young number nine named Cameron?
Don’t get me wrong, these signings did not guarantee success but I honestly can’t imagine where either side would be without their future immortals.
On the back of the Sharks historic premiership win, some have suggested that James Maloney could be the best signing in the club’s history.
The discussion got me thinking, and I’m now confident I can name the biggest and best signing in the modern NRL era.
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) October 2, 2016
For those who don’t know who Gorman is, and there will be plenty who won’t, he is the current Group CEO of the Cronulla Sharks. He not only oversees the running of the NRL side, but also the leagues club and the development of club owned land.
This is the man who oversaw not only the rebuilding of a club that had lost confidence in even its own fans but the crowning of that side as the NRL’s best in 2016; all in two years.
Appointed by a board led by Damian Keogh, Gorman brought with him a wealth of experience and plenty of success, but even his biggest fan wondered if perhaps the charismatic former Wanderers boss had bitten off more than he could chew.
At a series of pre-season fan forums following his appointment, Gorman answered every question asked of him.
Fans were angry and wanted reassurance that their money would not be wasted as the club struggled to recover from a series of events that may very well have ended a less resilient organisation.
Gorman, who went above and beyond to stress that he would be leading a team of the best people, not an individual crusade, sounded confident and proved once again that he could sell ice to Eskimos.
Fans, who entered the forums with anger in their veins, left optimistic that their club was in brilliant hands.
Prior to his appointment, the Sharks “organisation” was akin to a madhouse.
Former CEO Steve Noyce was leading the club into extinction, more concerned with convincing fans that they were wrong to doubt his vision rather than making the positive changes needed to lead the club out of their slump.
The club was sans its coach, was losing sponsors in droves, was forced to feed on the scraps of other clubs cast offs recruitment wise, and had just sacked its best player in comical circumstances.
Noyce, when asked about the future of Valentine Holmes in first grade, jokingly quipped that he’d “rather throw young Val into traffic than allow him to play first-grade footy”. For the record, both he and Nu Brown were in first grade just weeks later.
The place was a joke.
The community had fallen out of love with their club, whose trophy room was far more likely to be filled with wooden spoons than Arthur and Summons.
Only true (black, white and) blue fans of the club could describe how negative the feeling at the club at the end of 2014 were.
The majority of Gorman’s first speech centred on the club earning back the trust of its stakeholders.
It was stressed that the club would return to its community routes, and the club would be built on more than just success on the park.
Suddenly the players, who had been hidden away for so long, were out in the community once again. The club colours were everywhere, and suddenly the vibe started to change.
Membership packages suddenly looked far more appealing, and fans started to believe again.
As did the sponsors. They were hardly lining up to pour money into the club, but at least they were paying attention to the Shire club, instead of distancing themselves from it.
Gorman expressed genuine belief in the troubled returning Shane Flanagan and his team. Former Dragons coach Steve Price stood proudly with a smile from the back of the room. If a former Red V mentor was buying into the vision, surely Sharks fans would.
And they did.
Results on the field started to change, but it was off the field where results were impressive.
Crowd numbers rose, membership went up, more and more Shark jerseys were seen in the Cronulla mall as the weeks went on.
Then there were the signings of James Maloney and Chad Townsend.
There is little to no chance that a player of Maloney’s stature would even consider the Sharks during the peak of the ASADA mess.
Yet in his first interview after signing with the club, he said that after his future at the Roosters ended, there was only one place he wanted to play, at Cronulla.
Jack Bird, arguably the club’s most exciting prospect, re-signed with the club and is now in talks to sign a long-term deal. Valentine Holmes and Wade Graham, two vital pieces of the club’s puzzle going forward, are in talks to ink long-term deals.
Major sponsors Southern Radiology followed. Southern Cross Group came on board as sponsors of the former ‘Shark Park’, after a certain car company lost confidence in the club.
Oh, and then there is the presence of the most sought after trophy in the business sitting proudly in Sharkies Leagues for the next 12 months.
Anyone who follows the club will know the changes in attitude toward the club within the community cannot be put into words.
There will be detractors, like a certain member of the Zero Tackle community (has anyone checked on young Ron just quietly?), but surely no one close to the situation can have anything but good things to say about the man who leads the Sharks to the promised land.
I can’t think of a player, official or stakeholder at any club who has turned their club around both on and off the field quicker than the man who should have his very own statue outside Southern Cross Group Stadium, next to both Gallen and ET, than Lyall Gorman.
After the countless hours he has put into restoring a club that looked set for relocation, it was an absolute pleasure to see his partaking in a “shoey” celebration this past Monday as fans of the club cheered him on.
He’ll deny it, but he is THE most important piece of the Sharks premiership puzzle.