At the conclusion of each season, the Sharks single out and celebrate those who participate in every NRL fixture throughout the year.
Labeled the ‘Iron Men’, these players deal with the physically demanding challenges of the NRL each weekend, then they recover, prepare, and get themselves up to go again.
Certainly there is a degree of luck involved surrounding injury and suspension, however consistency of performance, persistence, dedication and resilience is equally, if not more significant.
Some years there are many, others maybe just one or two who manage to navigate their way through all 24 rounds, and in 2021 the Sharks had six players who took part in every game played during the just completed season.
The Sharks ‘Iron Men’ for 2021 in Will Kennedy, Aaron Woods, Jack Williams, Toby Rudolf, Blayke Brailey and Connor Tracey, were recognised and rewarded at an informal Sharks end of season presentation event held on Monday in their Brisbane hub.
For Kennedy, it capped a break through season in which he was named the Porter-Gallen Medalist as the Sharks player of the year, the Player’s Players, as well as the popular choice amongst the Members as their best for the 2021 season.
In the middle of the pack and battling with the big boys, the achievement of Woods, Williams and Rudolf to put the niggles, bumps and bruises aside and to get out onto the field every week was especially noteworthy.
Woods was forced to step up and add the captaincy to his responsibilities once Wade Graham was ruled out for the season, with 2021 the second year in succession where he has played every game throughout the year.
Similarly, Rudolf has been equally as durable, the energetic middle forward playing all 24 matches this year after being absent from only one game in 2020, that being when he was rested from the last regular season match before the Finals series.
As for Williams, a nominee for the Porter-Gallen Medal, 2021 has arguably been his best in the NRL, highlighted by him becoming a regular in the Sharks starting 13 for the final rounds of the season.
Hardly possession the bulk of those listed above, Brailey nonetheless supported his forwards around the ruck and in fact finished the 24 rounds having made the third most tackles by any player in the NRL competition, behind just brother Jayden and Dragons hooker Andrew McCullough.
One of four Player of the Year nominees this year, Brailey missed only one game in 2020 to go with his 24-for-24 in 2021 in a display of his ability and remarkable durability.
While last but certainly not least, if 2021 were breakthrough years for Kennedy and Williams, the same could be said for Tracey, the local junior who once again covered a variety of roles during 2021.
After training at fullback for much of the pre-season, Tracey found himself on the wing during the opening rounds, he saw some time in the centres, played some matches in the halves, before shifting back into the outside backs.
With his fearless carries with ball in hand, Tracey, another to be amongst the nominees for the Porter-Gallen, was an automatic selection somewhere in the team each week, it was just a matter of where coach Josh Hannay was going to fit him into his 13.
Coming into the season with 18 NRL games under his belt, Tracey added another 24 to his tally, while scoring a team-leading 14 tries during the year, representing an outstanding 2021 campaign.
Six Sharks ‘Iron Men’ for 2021 and six players who deserve a well-earned rest following another demanding NRL season.
2021 SHARKS IRON MEN - played all 24 NRL matches