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Local young guns look to impress in NRL squad

Local Juniors Kade Dykes and Sam Stonestreet are getting a taste of what it takes to compete at the highest level in their second NRL pre-season with the Cronulla Sharks.

The opportunity to train alongside some of the best in the game and develop their knowledge and skills under new coach Craig Fitzgibbon is a special experience for the 19-year-olds who have progressed through the Cronulla Sharks Junior Representative system together.

 Stonestreet, a winger with speed to burn, will complete 12 weeks of grueling pre-season training with the Sharks NRL squad on a ‘train and trial’ contract before returning to the club’s U21’s Jersey Flegg team in the coming weeks.

“It’s a great experience especially with all of the new coaches,” Stonestreet said. “I’m learning every day.”

For Dykes, who is contracted as one of Cronulla's four development players for the 2022 season, training as a full-time athlete under the guidance of the coaching staff has been a highlight.

“It’s good, it's been tough,” Dykes said.
 “It’s been great being up with the older boys, learning what it takes to play at the highest level and the professionalism of training day in and day out. I’m loving it so far.”

Dykes, who played his first game of Rugby League at the age of four, was joined by Stonestreet at De La Salle Rugby League Club in the Under 10s.

Playing alongside some of their ‘best mates’ in the De La Jersey each week, whilst developing foundational skills was said by the pair to have played a significant role in their growth as players, fueling their passion for the game of Rugby League.

With their Junior Club’s home field located directly opposite PointsBet Stadium, playing NRL for the Cronulla Sharks has been a childhood dream of both Dykes and Stonestreet.

“I wanted to play NRL from the second I could understand it,” Dykes, son of former Sharks star Adam, explained.

“I grew up supporting the Sharks. I always used to go down and watch the home games on the hill with my mates and go on the field after the game.”

“I would watch the home games at Shark Park when I was 8 years old,” Stonestreet said.

“Watching the likes of Luke Covell score tries and kick goals for the Sharks made me realise that I wanted to do the exact same thing.”

In a pursuit to fulfil this dream, both Dykes and Stonestreet became involved in the Sharks Junior Representative Pathway, progressing through the ranks alongside each other.

“I wanted to test myself and fulfil my dream of becoming a Rugby League player,” Stonestreet said.
 “I just like the idea of wearing the Sharks jersey and testing myself against good players from other clubs.”

“I played Harold Matt's a year young when I was 15,” Dykes said. “I played a couple of years there and then played SG Ball, 20’s and now I’m in the NRL squad.”

Their impressive performances throughout the Harold Matthews Cup, SG Ball and Jersey Flegg teams earned them a spot in the NRL’s wider training squad, placing them one step closer to achieving their goal of making their NRL debut in the black, white and blue.

The opportunity has been one that Stonestreet and Dykes have grabbed with both hands, leaving them determined to further develop their game and make an impression on the coaching staff.

“I hope to improve all aspects of my game and to give my best effort at all times, on and off the field,” said Stonestreet. “I just want to learn and take in as much as I can off the older boys and hopefully be a better player and a better person than when I started,” Dykes added.

With Jersey Flegg and NRL pre-season trials just weeks away, both players will get the chance to put their newly-acquired knowledge and skills into practice in a game environment, making one last impression on coaches prior to the commencement of the 2022 season.