Group sex, drugs, money, power and board room coups - 2009 has been a tough year so far for my Cronulla Sharks.
As our friends and readers know The Maxys are passionate Sharks supporters, we go a long way back, some of my fondest memories of my Dad were our post Sharks game phone calls.
In 1973, at seven years of age my brother Brett and I watched referee Hartley cheat us in the toughest Grand Final of all.
For many years our Maxys Band played the Sharks Home Game Player Presentations.
It's now 42 years without a premiership title - that builds strength of character. There's a Facebook Group called I want to see the Sharks Win a Grand Final Before I Die with over 2,000 members.
There's around 20,000 registered members, there's 230K people who live in the Shire alone, over 42 years that's a lot of brand hope invested.
2009 - The Shocker!
Unless you've been in other places then Oz you may not of heard of Matthew Johns and the 2002 Sharks Kiwi gang bang which was "exposed" on ABC's 4 Corners. The fact that it was consensual sex seven years ago between adults, the woman later boasted to work mates and no police charges were laid seems to be irrelevant to the purpose.
The real focus on the 4 Corners story seems to have been about the attitude of the NRL and that of young, healthy, highly paid males in a highly competitive physical sport towards women.
"Don't give me problems - give me solutions"
Anyway, let me make it clear from the start, this is not an article into the right and wrongs - as a marketer, Rugby League lover and Sharks supporter I'm looking for solutions on how we turn the Sharks Club around and having personally witnessed how local rivals the St George Dragons launched their 2009 season with "A Perfect Day" have clearly seen the huge gap between the new and old school of thinking and brand engagement.
Just because that's the way it has always been in the past doesn't mean that's the way it will always be.
The Sharks have taken their eyes of the ball - they've lost community engagement and trust. You only have to look at the Sharks community section of the website to see and compare that with the Dragons.
I personally spent many hours during the last week hosing down anti Sharks and NRL Twitter and Blog "Flamers". Thank gawd for the Dragons content links.
Today - online is where people quickly share information - bad news spreads like wildfire on the web - good news as well - look at the Susan Boyle phenononem.
Last Thursday night was the Sharks Annual General Meeting (AGM). About 500 members turned up - probably the most they've had in twenty years. There was a lot of passion and frustration in the auditorium.
The old board sat at the table, they looked tired.
The meeting ran smoothly, some great questions from the floor (one which had to be answered very very carefully) including comments from Glenn Wheeler, a retired ex Westfields Manager, a local expert in retiree development and a very astute lady down the front (sorry didn't catch her name - but will)
What was very interesting was that "Shire apathy" took another hit that night.
As you know, public speaking is one of the greatest fears most people have and I was deeply touched by the nervousness yet passion those people who picked up the mic and asked a question in front of 500 people - their voice initially quivering but gaining strength with the compassionate support of their fellow members.
The meeting included the pitch to the NRL about "the development" which aims to create a sustainable Sharks. The NRL accepted it - the members not as forgiving. There was and is much conjecture whether this strategy is right. To me, the plan is one dimensional and weak, yes building approval adds $15m to asset value and reduces risk profile - end of chapter.
Three new board members were appointed including Damian Irvine, Paul Walker and Ricky Surace.
An Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) is expected to be called with complete new board nominations. All the old board members are not expected to survive - the three new guys have to go through the process again.
With the expected EGM already factions are forming, the restaurants around the Shire have never been so busy.
We are yet to see a strong leader appear.
What we'll see is most people sitting back to see the next moves, with informal groups and alliances forming and taking shape. Names are being handed around.
Current movement seems to depend on what the new Board does next and how many more skeletons are still in the closet.
For my part, I've started working on some ideas which will bring together whatever faction eventually leads the Sharks and will help them, us, reengage with the community and take the Sharks to victory (before I die).
"Sharks, Sharks forever"
Late note (Sunday) - Pleased we beat Parra last night - that's good for helping rebuild some confidence with the team and troops.