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Round 18: Man of the Match

He arrived in the pre-season on a modest train and trial deal, earned an upgrade to a development contract as a result of his efforts over the summer, with Siosifa Talakai then promoted to the top 30, then into the starting 13 on a regular basis and now he amongst the Sharks best each and every week.

Running for team high 199 metres, many of those carries leaving defenders in his wake, emphasised by 80 post-contact metres, added to 36 tackles with no misses and it was a productive night for Talakai and no surprise the stocky backrower was a standout choice as the Round 18 Fan Poll Man of the Match.

Talakai, now an important and integral member of the Sharks side, received 61 per cent of the Fan Poll vote to be the overwhelming choice as his teams best.

Also enjoying an outstanding season, his best in Cronulla colours, is five eighth Shaun Johnson who continued to perform at a high level despite having the extra responsibility as team captain on the night.

With two try assists Johnson remained well on top of the NRL statistical category, however it may have been two try-saving tackles on the night which had just as much impact on the result and the Sharks coming out on top.

Johnson was second in this week’s Fan Poll, ahead of Toby Rudolf who notched his first NRL try with what proved to be the match-winner with just five minutes left on the clock.

In his first year in the NRL Rudolf has played all 18 games for the Sharks and continues to impress.

Young five eighth Connor Tracey proved the perfect foil for Johnson, Blayke Brailey, with his 52 tackles and slick service out of dummy half and Ronaldo Mulitalo, the scorer of two tries, were others to earn fan poll votes for their performances.

The Fan Poll Player of the Year tally remains hidden, with a winner to be revealed at the end of the Sharks season.