The fiery beginnings of Sharks-Storm rivalry
WILL Chambers wasn't firing the first shot with his "drug cheats" sledge at Paul Gallen and Wade Graham two months back.
The Storm centre, whose halftime quip lit up a miserable Melbourne afternoon, was simply pouring a bit more petrol on an already healthy blaze.
Like a few things rugby league at the moment, Andrew Fifita started it.
On one of those Monday nights the Sharks simply live for last March, Fifita put his 120-kilo frame into gear, drove Cameron Smith back 10 metres and then buried the Australian skipper's head a couple of inches beneath the Shark Park turf.
Told him to get used to it, then did the same to Cooper Cronk soon after.
Whispered a sweet nothing in his ear too, then repeated the dose. Just as Shane Flanagan told him to.
With Gallen sidelined by a knee injury, Melbourne unbeaten across the first month of 2016 and dropping only one of their last 11 games against the Sharks, Flanagan needed fire, brimstone and whatever else Fifita felt like tossing in the pot.
Scuffles and the obligatory pushing, shoving, fussing and feuding ensued for 80 heated minutes.
But led by their tattooed terror, Cronulla bashed the Storm into mistakes, a 14-6 defeat and a five-month vow to square up.
By round 26 last year the Sharks had honed the sizzling brilliance of Ben Barba, James Maloney and Val Holmes to match the street smarts in their middle.
Melbourne's pack, still stinging from their touch up in The Shire at the start of the year, returned the favour in a comprehensive 26-6 victory, claiming the minor premiership and reminding Fifita of it every step of the way.
Footy then came to the fore a month on at ANZ Stadium, and Fifita once more was front and centre.
As scripted a villain as you could imagine in Cronulla's fairytale, Fifita's astounding talent as much as his agro proved him best on ground, even if he was brushed for the official title.
When Chambers mouthed off at AAMI Park in the grand final rematch earlier this year, with Gallen firing back a crack at the Storm's salary cap scandal just as quick, he was simply jabbing a poker into the embers once more.