Brailey - "Its a pretty big deal"
Like most young hookers, Sharks rake Jayden Brailey grew up idolising champion Melbourne No.9 Cameron Smith.
Smith was the player on whom Brailey shaped his game – he religiously studied vision of the Storm maestro to hone his own skills.
"I started playing hooker when I was about 14. Every time the footy was on my dad always used to say, 'watch Cam Smith, watch what he does'," Brailey says.
"So I always watched Cam Smith growing up. Every time I come up against him I get really excited about it."
Brailey will lock horns with his former role model on Friday night when the Sharks travel to Melbourne to take on the Storm in a Grand Final qualifier.
The 22-year-old has already opposed Smith on four occasions. Still, he hasn't quite gotten used to sharing the field with the 35-year-old legend.
"It feels a bit weird at times because, you know, it's me versus Cam Smith in the hooking role. In a preliminary final, it's going to be a pretty big deal," Brailey says.
"But in saying that, in terms of our game plan nothing changes. We just want to play our game and I think that will go a long way to getting a win."
As a proud local Cronulla junior, hailing from the Aquinas Colts club in Menai, nothing would make Brailey happier than winning a title with the Sharks.
He watched from the ANZ Stadium stands in 2016 as the Sharks beat Melbourne to claim their maiden premiership. He intends to be in the thick of the action for the next one.
"I was there watching the game in '16. Being a local junior I never saw the Sharks win a premiership [for so many years]. For them to do, it [made me] want it for myself," he says.
"To think that I've got the chance to play in a Grand Final if we get through this weekend is a bit of a crazy feeling. I want to win this weekend so badly."
And history suggests that with Brailey in the side, the Sharks are well-placed to do so. He's won an impressive three of four matches against Melbourne since he came into first grade last season.
"Hopefully it's another win there. We as a team sort of get up for those tough games," he says.
"It's not easy to beat the Storm. It's a pretty good [personal] record I guess, but all that doesn't matter. It doesn't mean anything if we don't win on Friday because it's worth a whole lot more getting into the Grand Final."
Stemming from the aforementioned decider in 2016, clashes between the Sharks and Storm have been played with venom in recent years.
Brailey believes there is something about the sides that brings out the best in one another.
"Every time we play them you feel a noticeable difference in the intensity of the game and how much tougher it is," he says.
"I can't imagine what it's going to be like Friday night. It's going to be so tough but I'd like to think we're a pretty strong and tough side. We'll always be there for each other."
Adding to the excitement for the Brailey family, Jayden's younger brother Blayke will line up for the Newtown Jets – Cronulla's feeder team – in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Grand Final on Sunday.
"Mum is at home getting us the right dinner, right food and all that for us," Brailey grins.
"It's a pretty big week for [Blayke and me]. We love our footy – he's been lucky enough to play in a few Grand Finals and I haven't.
"It's special to be able to go through it all with a brother and to be able to share the same routine and same moments together in the same club."