The Freak Show: The End of an Era

I may be jumping the gun here, but nevertheless I?m here to make a very big call. Last Sunday, amidst the swirling dust of Energy Australia Stadium we witnessed something great, and I?m not just referring to the final score. What we witnessed was a happening. An epiphany if you will. A moment in time that we?ll look back on in years to come and regard as a turning point. What we witnessed, was the end of the David Peachey Era.

What Sunday in Newcastle finally proved to the Sharks is that we don?t need David Peachey to win. After four years and twenty something losses without the great man in our side, the curse has finally been broken. The monkey is off our backs, and has been firmly stamped, along with Newcastle?s finals aspirations, into the dirt of Energy Australia Stadium. Leading the stamping were two of the Sharks? new breed, Dave Simmons and Michael Sullivan. But we?ll come back to them later.

The notion that the Sharks can?t win without Peach is one that has haunted the team for years. Chris Anderson said he?d never seen anything like it, and continually expressed amazement at the extent of the team?s psychosis. He tried to solve the problem like an old-fashioned surgeon, and gave the Sharks his own version of a frontal lobotomy, which involved sacking many of the so called ?infected? players. Now, what frontal lobotomies do, for those who never watched ER, is remove the part of the brain that causes the psychosis. The downside however is that you also lose your personality, which is exactly what happened to the Sharks team as well. And of course they continued to lose without Peach.

Next, Anderson tried the tough love approach. He berated the team about how abnormal their psychosis was. He assured them that a single player shouldn?t affect them so much, and told them repeatedly not to focus on the absence of Peach. He may as well have told them not to think about pink elephants.

Stuart Raper took a slightly different approach. He didn?t berate his players in the media for their frailties, or pen lengthy newspaper columns assuring fans that the problem was solved. He simply decided not to mention it, and it was as if the problem had never existed.

Last Sunday saw the emergence of the next great Sharks fullback. Dave Simmons was dangerous in attack, safe as houses in defence, and never once left you longing for David Peachey. Michael Sullivan was the consummate field general, dominating and controlling, while at the same time helping to usher in a new era of Sharks history. While some of the kicks and passes performed by he and Jason Kent lacked the perfect precision and rotation that Sharks fans have grown accustomed to, it was obvious that this was more due to the absence of Brett Kimmorley, and that Kimmorley?s absence was a far more telling factor than Peachey?s ever was.

So where does this leave Mr. Peachey? Well for mine, the team has now evolved to a level where Peachey is non-essential to the club?s fortunes. We now know we don?t need him to win, and hopefully the monkey will stay buried for a very long time. But the fact that Peachey is non-essential isn?t a bad thing, it?s a good thing. Now that we don?t need Peachey to win, his presence becomes a bonus rather than a necessity, and the team finally steps up to the big time. In much the same way that Brad Fittler has become non-essential to the fortunes of the Roosters, Peachey can be used to make a good young team better. Now that he doesn?t have to carry the team, he can focus on simply bringing to the Sharks those intangible qualities which set Peachey apart from all other fullbacks of his generation. Hopefully it will be these qualities which can carry the Sharks all the way either this year or next.

My message to the Sharks administrators is this: As excited as we all are now about the future of the franchise, now is not the time to ignore the past. Peach needs to be re-signed, and used to make our good young team better. Look at us now. We can win without Peach. We?ve reached the point where he?s expendable simply because we have too many good players. It?s a simply awesome problem to have.