The Sharks have continued to build their NRL roster for the 2022 season in announcing the recruitment of noted try scorer Matt Ikuvalu from the Roosters, the retention of experienced forward Aiden Tolman, the signing of 2021 Olympian and Australian Rugby Sevens star Locky Miller, while also adding 2021 Queensland Cup Player of the Year Jayden Berrell to their top 30 squad list.
The quartet complements the impressive line-up already assembled by incoming coach Craig Fitzgibbon and Sharks General Manager of Football Darren Mooney ahead of the start of the upcoming pre-season.
Of the three newcomers, Ikuvalu will arrive at the Sharks as the most experienced, the hard running 100kg winger etching his name into Roosters history in 2020 by scoring five tries in one match.
Ikuvalu would earn a regular Roosters wing spot in 2021 during a year in which he played 15 games and crossed for 14 tries for an impressive strike try-scoring rate.
A Central Coast junior from the Erina Eagles, the 27-year-old debuted in the NRL in 2018, with his ability and character obviously attracting the attention of coach Fitzgibbon, who had a strong relationship with Ikuvalu from their days together at the Roosters.
“Fitzy was a big factor - not so much that he was trying to pull me across - it was just more so that it’s still a home feel rather than going to a completely new club. He’s going to still have the same morals and the system that he brings, so I’m not learning a whole new system,” Ikuvalu told the SMH.
Ikuvalu, who sought and was granted a release from the final year of his Roosters contract, has signed a two-year deal with the Sharks.
The Sharks were also able to confirm recent reports that they have secured the services of Australian Rugby Sevens star Locky Miller on a two-year contract.
Competing for Australia on the international rugby sevens circuit in recent years, Miller had a long-held desire to return to rugby league, the game he had played on the NSW north coast until the age of 22.
After being impressed by the pitch made by Fitzgibbon, Miller rejected an offer from the LA Giltinis Rugby Club in the US and from rival NRL teams to sign with the Sharks.
With speed and footwork, where Miller might fit into the Sharks set up remains to be seen, however with some making comparisons to Knights and now Roosters utility Connor Watson, his versatility will be a bonus.
“I’ve been watching the NRL and the Sharks just seem like a really good fit. Craig is a really good coach, really easy to get along with. That was one of the main selling points,” Miller told the SMH.
“In terms of position, we’ll get into pre-season and really give it a crack and see where I go from there. He (Fitzgibbon) appreciates I can play in the spine, but also attack out wide if I need to.”
CLICK HERE to see some of Miller’s recent rugby highlights.
Joining Miller as a newcomer to the Sharks and the Sutherland Shire, will be energetic hooker/utility Jayden Berrell, the Petero Civoniceva Medal winner as the leading player in the Queensland Cup Competition in 2021.
Managed by Sharks legend Mat Rogers and the Rogers Sports Management Group, Berrell needed little convincing that the Cronulla club was a great option for his immediate footballing future.
“It happened really quick. I sat down with Fitzy (Fitzgibbon) and Moons (Mooney), loved the vision they had for the club, loved what Fitzy wanted to bring and they had me. I’m definitely really keen to show what I can do,” Berrell said.
A former Australian Schoolboy, Berrell was in the Broncos system through the junior ranks and under 20’s, before then representing Wynnum and Norths in the Queensland Cup competition.
After a standout season in 2021, where his Wynnum Seagulls were narrowly defeated in the Grand Final, Berrell was ready to take the step up to an NRL roster and enlisted the help of Rogers to make it happen.
“He’s a young bloke with a great attitude who’s been fighting for an opportunity,” Rogers began.
“I said I can’t do anything for you unless you’re playing well, then this year he goes and wins the Queensland Cup player of the year.
“His wife said she had never seen him so focussed. He was working 40 hours a week, plus doing his weights, then also driving the hour or so from the Gold Coast to Wynnum in Brisbane to train and play football.
“Now we’ll see what he can do when he puts all his focus into training and playing footy. He’s a 9 who offers something in attack,” Rogers added.
And while the previous three will be a new faces when they report for pre-season training, returning in 2022 will be experienced forward Aiden Tolman, the former Bulldog and Storm prop signing a one-year extension that will see him return for a second season at the Cronulla club.
One of the Sharks most consistent performers last year, Tolman also took on a leadership role in the challenging circumstances of the Queensland bubble during the second half of the 2021 season.
Just four games shy of the special 300 NRL game milestone, Tolman was excited to be back with the Sharks and to be playing a 15th season in the NRL competition.
“I enjoyed my first year at the Club and I’m really happy to be returning for a second,” Tolman said. “We’ve got some quality players joining us and a new coach in Craig who I’m looking forward to working with.”
The Sharks began their pre-season today, with the first group of players reporting to training early this morning.
Born – November 9, 1993 – Sydney
Position – Wing
Weight – 100kgs
Height – 184cm
Junior Club – Erina Eagles
Other Clubs – Sydney Roosters
NRL Debut – Round 13, 2018, Roosters v Wests Tigers
NRL games – 38 (25 tries)
NRL games 2021 – 15 (14 tries)
Born – November 10, 1988 – Kempsey, NSW
Position - Prop
Weight – 102kgs
Height – 183cm
Junior Club – Smithtown Tigers
Other Clubs – Storm (2008-2010), Bulldogs (2011-2020)
NRL Debut – Round 6, 2008, Storm v Raiders
NRL games – 296
NRL games 2021 - 21
Born – August 14, 1994
Position – Utility
Height – 185cm
Weight – 84kgs
Junior Clubs – Coffs Harbour Comets, Sawtell Panthers
Other Clubs – NRL none, Australian Rugby Sevens, Randwick Rugby Union
Yet to play in the NRL
Born – June 14, 1995 – Ipswich, Qld
Position – Hooker
Height – 177cm
Weight – 87kgs
Junior Club – Runaway Bay
Previous Clubs – Broncos, Norths (Qld), Wynnum (Qld)
Yet to play in the NRL