Matt Prior will play his 250th NRL game on Saturday in registering a memorable milestone for one of the Sharks unsung heroes.
Uncompromising in defence and always a willing contributor when a tough run is required, the 2016 joint Monty Porter Medallist has accumulated two premiership rings, an origin jersey and series win, as well as the respect of all who have played with him in what has been an outstanding career to date.
“It’s a massive effort,” Wade Graham said of Prior’s achievement. “Matty’s a great guy and probably doesn’t get the wraps he deserves.
“He’s a two-time premiership winner, with Dragons and Sharks and was influential in both those teams winning the competition. He’s a great competitor, a great team man and a wonderful player.”
John Morris, a man Prior played with before moving into the coach’s box, also had nothing but praise on the eve of this milestone match.
“He’s a favourite amongst the team. Really respected, of the highest character and he’s one of those rare dual premiership players having won at St George in 2010 and with us in 2016,” Morris said.
“He’s really led from the front, the way we play that tough, gritty style is based around Priz’s energy and defensive effort.
“The boys love having him out there, he sets the standards and we really owe it to him to play well tomorrow.”
After 120 games at St George Illawarra, included amongst those the Grand Final success of 2010, Prior made the switch to the Sharks at the start of the 2014 season and he hasn’t looked back.
With 2016 his standout year in Cronulla colours, Prior was celebrated as his team’s best in their premiership winning season, sharing player of the year honours with Andrew Fifita. But it has been his toughness, resilience and consistency that has stood him apart.
The journey for the quietly spoken man from Thirroul, which began at the NRL level when he debuted for the Dragons in 2008, has been a successful one throughout a career that he feels is far from over as he prepares for game 250.
“Physically I’m feeling good. Body feeling good. I might have a few more years in me,” Prior said.
As for what has gone before, preparing to run out for match 250, some of it is a blur, other games will never be forgotten, and this weekend will rank up there amongst his proudest moments.
“Looking back, all the games have been pretty special. I can remember a few, a couple of Grand Finals I got to play in and a couple of other memorable ones, but this game will be up there,” Prior said.
“I never look too far ahead, the old cliché of one game at a time, I’ve grinded it out and here we are.”
Ánd where Prior and his team ‘are’ is readying themselves for a crucial clash with the visiting New Zealand Warriors in a match with huge finals implications.
“The next three weeks are massive for us and will decide our season. I think we’ve got the roster, it’s just a matter of playing some consistent footy,” Prior added.
Which is exactly what Prior has done throughout his 250 games, playing to a consistently high level in his 12 seasons, in proving to be an asset to the teams he’s played in and the players he’s played with.