It was a tough initiation for Matt Prior during his first season at the Cronulla club in 2014, however things improved in 2015 as the Sharks went on to reach the NRL finals.
It came as no surprise the Sharks improved fortunes in his second year at the club had plenty to do with the input of Prior as the former Dragon, with better personnel around him, took his game up a notch.
Then 2016 arrived and history will show it was the year the Sharks reached the holy grail, claiming their first NRL title during what was an amazing year for everyone connected with the club.
Again, it was no accident the NRL Premiership coincided with Matt Prior lifting to new levels, with his form good enough for him to be touted for Origin selection and Kangaroo World Cup involvement.
As much as fellow big men Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Wade Graham deserved the accolades, success wouldn’t have been achieved without Prior and his performances throughout the year.
Not many will forget the Canberra preliminary final, a game in which the Sharks were missing Gallen and lost Graham early, with Prior leading the way up front and putting in a man-of-the-match performance.
This week he celebrates his 200th NRL game, his 80th for the Sharks since transferring from the Dragons, but in typical style for a player who likes to let his on-field efforts do all his talking, Prior was happy to deflect the spotlight.
“It’s a big milestone for me, I’m very excited but more looking forward to a strong performance from us and hopefully get the win,” Prior said.
“I’ve been playing for a long time and it’s a massive milestone. I’m pumped to get out there with the boys on Sunday and to ripping in.”
A Wollongong junior from the Thirroul club, Prior’s first game for the Sharks was in round one, 2014, his NRL debut coming in 2008 when at the Dragons.
An integral member of the Sharks Grand Final success, Prior also played an important role in the St George Illawarra victory in 2010.
A bit more hype of late has surrounded milestone matches played by Gallen, Graham, Lewis, James Maloney and Chris Heigington and on Sunday it is unlikely Prior will attract similar headlines to his high-profile teammates.
Nor will he be actively seeking out the media in the finals matches that follow, but Prior will be noticed by those that matter, in particular his coach, teammates and Sharks members and fans.
Matt Prior Fact File
Born – May 27, 1987 – Wollongong
Junior Club – Thirroul Butchers
Height – 188cm
Weights – 104kgs
Rep Honours – Country Origin (2011)
NRL Debut – Dragons v Cowboys, WIN Stadium, round 5, 2008
Sharks Debut – Sharks v Titans, Southern Cross Group Stadium, round 1, 2014
NRL games played – 199 – 13 tries
Sharks games played – 79 – 5 tries
NRL Premierships – 2 - 2010 (Dragons), 2016 (Sharks)