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Sharks prop Franklin Pele.

Sharks trainers have been forced to keep exciting prospect Franklin Pele out of the gym because of his propensity to stack on muscle.

The 20-year-old rookie prop told NRL.com he is restricted to pumping iron just a couple of days per week. He walks or cycles around Cronulla during the team's other scheduled weights sessions.

Described as "125 kilos of muscle" by teammate Toby Rudolf, Pele wanted to slim down when he began his second NRL pre-season.

"I weighed quite a bit at the end of training last year. I came back into it and lost a bit of weight. My fat was going down, but my muscle was going up," said the 190cm Pele, who is in Cronulla's top-30 squad. 

NRL 2021 - 30 days to go

"I was trying to lose weight, but I was ending up gaining weight. I put on like another two kilos of muscle, so I'm not allowed to do the gym [work] pretty much. Instead of doing five days, I do two days a week."

Pele has been named at prop for Cronulla's trial match against St George Illawarra on Friday night. The match is restricted to players who played fewer than 12 games last year.

The Dragons side will be led by veteran forward Tariq Sims, who was restricted to nine games in 2020 due to wrist and shoulder injury.

According to centre Jesse Ramien, Pele "came back in the pre-season and dropped 10 or 15 kilos over the break."

"For someone to come back and do that, it shows how committed he is at having a crack at NRL," Ramien said.

"I think if we get any sort of injuries up in the top [team], Frankie will be pushing for a spot. He's had an unreal pre-season ... and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a few games in 2021."

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Rudolf added that not only is Pele explosively strong, "he's also chased down Blayke Brailey a few times in [conditioning] games."

"If anyone's a chance of cracking the team ... Look, if he gets unleashed on the field, I wouldn't want to be in front of him."

Pele, however, is pragmatic about the timeframe for his NRL debut since he hardly played last year with the Jersey Flegg under-20s competition cancelled after one round due to COVID-19.

And aside from two impressive NRL trials in 2020, Pele is yet to properly test himself against men after having not played any NSW Cup.

Stories of his training efforts suggest he'll handle it, and he hopes to earn a taste of the big time at some stage this season.

"He's very strong, a very powerful runner. He's only young, and the way he carries himself and the way he runs on the field, it's exciting for the club," veteran forward Aiden Tolman said.

I'm not allowed to do the gym [work] ... Instead of doing five days, I do two

Rookie Sharks prop Franklin Pele

"It's not always easy being a front-rower and doing a lot of running in pre-season, but he's been going really well and he's really impressed a lot of us players and the coaching staff as well."

Born in South Auckland, Pele moved to Australia when he was seven and his family settled in Sydney's Sutherland Shire.

A local junior, he played for St Patrick's Sutherland and "pretty much every other team in the Shire." It wasn't long before he caught the Sharks' eye and he was in their Academy system by the under-13s.

"And then when I was 15 I went to St George, played Harold Matts [under-16s] a year up there. Ended up coming back to Sharks and I've just been here ever since," Pele said.

"All my uncles and my old man played league in New Zealand. They didn't make the Warriors or anything, but they were pretty good players in the local comps. I pretty much started from there, it planted the seed. It was always their dream, so it's transferred to me.

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"I really liked the old-school front-rowers. Shane Webcke, Mark O'Meley – that kind of style of front-rower ... Jason Taumalolo's been one of my favourite players for a long time."

Pele's junior highlights reel is full of Taumalolo-esque destruction as well as dynamic footwork and skillful offloading.

The rising bookend attended renowned football nursery Endeavour Sports High School - being coached by now-Cronulla assistant Dave Howlett - where he won the prestigious Dau Medal in 2018.

An Australian Schoolboys and Toa Samoa under-18s representative, Pele is signed to the Sharks until the end of 2022.

 

Sharks Team List

1. Luke Metcalf
2. Nene MacDonald
3. Mawene Hiroti
4. Kayleb Milne
5. Kayal Iro
6. Jack Williams
7. Braydon Trindall
8. Franklin Pele
9. Kyle Paterson
10. Daniel Vasquez
11. Teig Wilton
12. Josh Carr
13. Billy Magoulias
14. Monty Raper
15. Tom Hazleton
16. Jack Martin
17. Kade Dykes
18. Ryan Rivett
19. Jordan Samrani

Dragons team list (in alphabetical order)

Daniel Alvaro

Junior Amone

Bailey Antrobus

Eddie Blacker

Luke Chalker

Josh Coric

Mathew Delbanco

Blake Dowel

Kaide Ellis

Mat Feagai

Max Feagai

Jackson Ford

Zeik Foster

Jaiyden Hunt

Nathan Leatigaga

Hayden Lomax

Sam McCann

Sitiveni Moceidreke

Connor Muhleisen

Tony Pellow

Charly Runciman

Shaun Sauni-Esau

Tariq Sims

Tyrell Sloan

Jayden Sullivan

Brayden Wiliame

Tyran Wishart