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Sharks Have Heart – Volunteers are the heart of the Cronulla Sharks!

The Cronulla Sharks have earned a reputation of being the ‘Community Club’ by implementing community and volunteer programs that create social impact and meaningful change within the Sutherland Shire and beyond.

A group of people wearing Cronulla Southerland Sharks tops, holding up team merchandise.
Volunteers from the Cronulla Sharks Heart to Heart program.

“We did a community review last year and found one of the ways we, as a professional sporting club, could support our community was to help grassroot clubs recruit and retain volunteers,” Jessica Macartney, Head of Community and Government Relations at the Cronulla Sharks, said.

The Sharks’ Heart to Heart volunteers' program is just one of the Sharks Have Heart initiatives which aims to ‘rebuild and reinforce a flourishing network of volunteers’ following the negative impact of COVID-19 on the volunteer sector.

As part of the program, local sporting and community partners have access to the Heart to Heart network of volunteers to fill positions, while the volunteers themselves benefit from: flexible and dynamic roles; professional training and education; and a reward and recognition program.

The Sharks recruit volunteers to join this program through the game-day Shark Crew and Shark Tank events, which are held quarterly.

“We use our brand and voice in the community to attract people to Shark Tank events as prospective volunteers,” Jessical said.

“At the event, five local organisations have five minutes to pitch themselves to the prospective volunteers in the room. We then connect the organisation with any volunteers who felt aligned after hearing their pitch.”

This means traditional sport volunteers broaden their volunteering efforts to help other community organisations such as Feel the Magic, and vice versa for people who have never considered volunteering in sport.

The Sharks keep track of the volunteers’ hours and offer rewards and recognition based on the number of hours spent volunteering at their matched organisation.

“After 20 hours of volunteering you receive a Sharks community polo and after 50 hours our Captain, Wade Graham, will send you a personalised thank you letter in the mail,” Jessica said.

However, the volunteer recognition doesn’t stop there for the Cronulla Sharks. At every home game, a volunteer is nominated by community partners and selected to man the Aramex Lifeguard Tower, where they get a front row seat to watch the game.

“The volunteer of the round is joined in the tower by two Cronulla Sharks Water Polo players before they search the crowd for ‘sharks’ and sound the ‘shark alarm’ for the team to run out onto the field,” Jessica said.

“We’ve had all sorts of volunteers in the tower, from Terence Fitzsimmons , who gives driving lessons, to refugees and to Emily Chapman from the local baseball club.”

While the Sharks’ Heart to Heart program was only established in January 2023, it is already an excellent example of a sporting organisation thinking outside the box to attract and retain volunteers. Importantly, it’s not only the club that benefits but the local community and the volunteers themselves.

To learn more about the Cronulla Sharks and their Sharks Have Heart program visit Community - Cronulla Sharks | Sharks.

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