NRL: Sharks hooker Mick Ennis has celebrated his second try of the season in extremely unique fashion.
GREG Pierce, Cronulla’s first Australian captain, was remembered on Saturday by the legends he helped inspire.
Andrew Ettingshausen, Dane Sorensen and Paul Gallen paid tribute to the fiercely competitive NSW and Test forward and former Sharks coach who, at 66, on Friday night lost a 15-year battle with cancer.
Pierce’s loss was met with immense shock, sadness and wonderful memories of a player who boasted superior athleticism, an outstanding tackling technique, an iconic moustache and an incredible will to live.
“Sixty-six — too young,’’ Ettingshausen said.
“I remember as a kid, sitting on the hill watching him play and he was wonderful through the mid-70s when I was coming through.
“In comparison to the many other players in that era, he was a real athlete. Fitness was always a big part of his make-up and he had the skills to go with it.
“He was a leader for the Sharks and he was a leader for Australia, a true great of the club.’’
Sorensen said that even while ill Pierce, who played 210 matches for Cronulla between 1969 and 1980, including the brutal 1973 grand final against Manly, showed how competitive he was, on and off the field.
“He’s about the only bloke I know that would’ve lasted this long with such an illness,’’ Sorensen, who played 217-games for the Sharks, said.
“His desire was something else. At training, he was at the front of everybody and that is, I believe, what kept him going. You saw him play and you tried to emulate him because he was such a good player.’’
Gallen was stunned by the news. Gallen said Pierce’s impact on his own career started on one of the first days he joined the club as a teenager.
“I saw his name up on the wall inside the club,’’ Gallen said.
“It was a list of Sharks players to have captained Australia and his name was first.
“I told myself that one day, I want to have my name up there with his. His achievements are extremely rare in the game and I know what he means to our club.
“The job for myself and for the next group of leaders once I’m retired is to make sure we always remember the players, like Greg, who helped build this club into what it is today.’’
The Sharks held a minute’s silence prior to Saturday night’s clash with New Zealand, while all 17 players wore black armbands in tribute to Pierce.