After all the dramas, can 2015 be the year of the Sharks?
QUITE a few years ago my beloved and I decided that sending Christmas cards was impersonal, outdated and expensive.
A phone call or - as a last resort - an email was to be the mode of good tidings from our household.
Because I am a hoarder, very few of the phone numbers I have accumulated over my career remain in the modern-day equivalent of my contact book.
And each Christmas Eve I enjoy calling former colleagues or mates with whom I have not been in regular communique. One such call last week was to a Sydney-based journo/author who has been a rusted-on Sharks supporter since day dot.
We worked together at Rugby League Week and more recently I assisted him with the publication of a book celebrating the first 20 years of the Broncos.
Like all Sharks fans, Gary has endured tough times.
But as a genuine devotee of his club he has stuck solid, and the light he sees at the end of the tunnel includes a premiership in the very near future.
Despite the many years of heartache and a fruitless premiership quest, my mate has never surrendered his faith in the Sharks.
And during the horrendous past 18 months when the ASADA spotlight almost blinded them, their coach and various players were suspended and key staff sacked, he stayed more loyal than ever.
Now, with a clean slate and some new talent on the roster, he awaits 2015 kick-off just as eagerly as those among the still-celebrating Rabbitohs faithful.
With a memory that dates back to his days as a member of the very first Sharks President's Cup team, he rates this squad the equal of the previous best, which he says was in 1978.
That side drew the grand final 11-all with the Sea Eagles but were then beaten 16-nil in the replay four days later. Norm Provan coached that team, Steve Rogers was captain and Greg Pierce, brothers Dane and Kurt Sorensen, Steve Kneen and Paul Khan were among their big guns. What impresses Gary most about the 2015 squad is the addition of genuine attackers Michael Ennis, Ben Barba, Gerard Beale and youngster Jack Bird, as well as the toughness of the pack. And he tips a big season for David Fifita, twin of Test prop Andrew. If David Fifita realises his potential, a possible Sharks forward pack will be the Fifita brothers up front with Ennis, and Wade Graham, Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen in a formidable back row.
But to fulfil the ideals of Gary and so many resolute and expectant Sharks fans, numerous hurdles need to be jumped.
Firstly, the chip must disappear from the shoulders of coach Shane Flanagan and skipper Gallen, who continue to protest they have been harshly treated.
An almost injury-free season is another necessity.
But most importantly the Sharks players, like my mate Gary, need to believe in themselves. And following a 47-year premiership drought, suddenly discovering that conviction will be the foremost challenge.