Exciting young gun Ronaldo Mulitalo has made quite the impression in what has so far been a brief NRL career, bringing his considerable ability as well as an abundance of energy and enthusiasm to each of his 16 appearances in the top grade to date.
Also of outstanding character off the field, Mulitalo this week officially becoming an ambassador with Stepping Stone House after years of working behind the scenes in support of the award-winning charity organisation that helps transform the lives of homeless youth, the Sharks have moved quickly to re-sign the 20-year-old outside back in confirming a two-year contract extension.
Already secured for 2021, the new deal will see Mulitalo remain in Sharks colours through until at least the end of the 2023 season.
In announcing his new contract, Mulitalo’s passion for the Sharks and his desire to be a part of the success of the club over the next few years is clearly evident.
“I’m passionate about the club, I love it here and I want to play a part in bringing another championship to the Sharks,” Mulitalo said. “I’m passionate about my football but I’m also passionate about some of the things I do away from football and the Sharks have always been supportive of that as well.
“We’ve got some exciting young talent here, we’re building a strong squad and I want to be a part of that future,” he added.
Before he could sign on the dotted line, he had to get the endorsement of his most ardent supporter, his mother Vaega, and with family of paramount importance to Mulitalo, after that conversation there was little doubt as to where his immediate rugby league future lay.
“Mum came to me and said ‘you enjoy you’re footy here, you’re playing good footy, why would you want to move’. That made it easier to decide to stay in that she was so supportive,” Mulitalo added.
As for Coach John Morris, with Mulitalo in demand back in 2019 when coming off contract at his insistence the club moved quickly to secure his services in advance of the November deadline, such is his respect for his ability and what he brings to the group.
“Ronaldo ticks all the boxes for me with his character, commitment, passion and performance,” Morris began. “When you want to build for the future you want to build it around blokes like him.”
“He stands for everything I’m trying to build, the passion he has for the Sharks and he’s just so competitive. He’s a winner. What you see of him on a game day, he is like that every single day of the week.
“He might only be young but he also has strong leadership qualities and as I said he’s very passionate. He’s just going from strength to strength,” Morris said.
The Sharks got their first glimpse of Mulitalo at a development camp, coincidently run by Morris back in 2014, before he became a scholarship player with the under-18 Sharks in 2017. From there he was train and trial for the NRL squad ahead of the 2019 season, before the Sharks beat several other offers in upgrading him to a top-30 contract the week of his debut game in Brisbane last year.
And from there the rest is history. Mulitalo has gone on to be one of 10 players to debut in the NRL with the Sharks over the past two seasons, with eight of those 10 coming through the club’s junior pathway system.
However as strong as his contribution has been on the field, the coach also recognises the community work Mulitalo does away from it.
“His support of Fine Kula through his health battles has been amazing, he has just become an ambassador for Stepping Stone House and he is always helping people out.
“What he brings to us as a player is only part of it, he is always thinking of others and players like Ronnie are the ones you want to hang onto and lock up. For him it’s all about family, representing family and looking after his mum and his family, with this new contract allowing him to be able to do that,” Morris said.
Debuting in exceptional circumstances in round seven of the 2019 season, thrown into a game against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium with only a few minutes notice due to a warm-up injury, Mulitalo has gone on to cement a permanent place in the Sharks backline.
Sidelined for six weeks earlier this year as a result of a knee injury suffered in a win over the Cowboys in Townsville, Mulitalo has bounced back to where he played a significant role in consecutive wins over the Warriors, Dragons and Broncos, before displaying his finishing ability in scoring two tries in the wet in the narrow loss to the Eels last weekend.
Arriving at Cronulla from Brisbane as a 16-year-old ahead of the 2017 SG Ball season, Mulitalo played the first 11 games for the championship-winning Sharks Jersey Flegg side in 2018 before undergoing shoulder surgery. He then graduated into the NRL squad in 2019, where he has since played 16 top grade games, scoring 11 tries.
A member of the Emerging Maroons squad, Mulitalo has also represented the Sunshine State at under-18’s and under-20’s level and has been earmarked as a Queensland Origin player of the future.