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Ahead of his 100th NRL game against the Bulldogs on Friday night, Siosifa Talakai has declared he "owes everything to the Sharks".

Reaching such a milestone seemed most unlikely for the wrecking ball after he was let go by the Rabbitohs in 2018 and briefly worked as a garbage collector.

However, after regaining his zest for rugby league with the Newtown Jets, Talakai earned a train-and-trial deal at Cronulla in 2020 and seized his second chance.

Having now registered 88 matches for the Sharks, where he is contracted until the end of 2026, the versatile 27-year-old's gratitude is immense.

"Bit of a rough start, I'd say," Talakai says.

"Got the flick (from Souths). Through my hard work, perseverance, people backing me, I got an opportunity here and haven't looked back since.

"I was pretty disrespectful for the way that I treated my (initial) opportunity. To get that opportunity again, there was no looking back. It was all or nothing.

"The Sharks mean everything to me.

"They've given me my second crack at NRL footy and looked after me in so many ways. I owe everything to them as much as I do my family. I just love this place."

Talakai came through the junior grades at the Mascot Jets, featuring in an all-conquering team with the likes of Cameron Murray and Keaon Koloamatangi.

His love for the game was drilled into him as a youngster.

"Growing up, my old man was a big fan of footy, whether it be rugby union or rugby league. Saturday nights were big. We used to watch the footy a lot," Talakai said.

He remembers times when he would be "playing at church with my cousins while church service was on and going home with a couple of ripped shirts!"

Talakai's father Suli, a Tongan migrant, worked graveyard shifts at a printing company while helping with the budding footballer's training.

"My dad is pretty much everything to me," an appreciative Talakai says. "He's done a lot to support not only myself but my five other siblings."

Talakai recalls his 2016 debut for South Sydney as a "dream come true", scoring with his first touch off the bench in a 29-28 loss to the Titans in Perth.

"It was a proud moment not only for myself but for my family," he says.

"For my old man, my mum, for all the hard work they've done to keep me out of trouble, especially outside of footy. All their sacrifices had finally come to fruition."

In the years since, Talakai has represented New South Wales and Tonga, showing a rare ability to shine in the centres, back row or through the middle.

He's been named to wear the No.12 jersey against Canterbury at Accor Stadium on a night where his loved ones will again be bursting with pride.

"It'll be another game for me," Talakai says humbly.

"But it'll be a milestone for my parents, especially my dad."

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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