Sharks Showing Commitment to Community on and off the Field
While they excite the crowds with their on-field exploits, playing to multiple sellouts at their home ground of PointsBet Stadium, much of the Sharks' best work might be carried out away from the spotlight and the adoring fans.
The Sharks qualified for the NRL Finals for the second consecutive year and for the eighth time in the past nine years, before bowing out in spectacular fashion following a one-point loss to the Roosters.
It was a disappointing end to a season that promised so much, however with coach Craig Fitzgibbon returning, along with the majority of his 2023 playing squad, hopes are high that the lessons learned this year will see the Sharks challenge the best teams in the NRL again next year.
But while the players now take a well-earned break from training and playing, something that never rests is the Sharks commitment to community causes, organisations, events and activities.
Through its community arm Sharks Have Heart, the Cronulla club has earned a reputation as the ‘Community Club’ by utilising the profile of the players, now both men and women, as well as the game of rugby league to create social impact and bring about meaningful change.
From One Heart, which contributes to strength in diversity and social participation, to Heart to Heart and its aim to rebuild and reinforce a flourishing network of volunteers to participate in flexible and dynamic roles and in supporting a thriving sport sector in the Sutherland Shire, Sharks Have Heart is a crucial part of the Club’s overall business.
And although members of both the NRL and NRLW squads are active participants in Sharks Have Heart programs, two players have been singled out for special recognition in going above and beyond in their commitment to the community.
Earlier this year Toby Rudolf, one of the NRL’s personality players, known as much for his long flowing locks and ‘Sampson-like’ appearance as for his on-field performances, teamed up with the Leukaemia Foundation's World's Greatest Shave, an event which saw the popular Shark raise $43,000 for the cause.
In the 25th year of the national fundraising initiative, Rudolf became the second-highest fundraiser nationally in the Individual Fundraiser category in 2023.
His community spirit certainly didn’t go unnoticed, with Rudolf then recognised by the NRL as a Finalist for the prestigious Ken Stephens Medal 'Man of the Year’, an award presented to the player deemed to be making the most significant contribution to the community over the course of the year.
Should Rudolf, who also led the way when it came to fan and community engagement in many other Sharks Have Heart programs, be crowed Ken Stephen Medallist, he would follow in the footsteps of teammate Ronaldo Mulitalo, the recipient of the award in 2022.
To have back-to-back winners of the Medal would further solidify the Sharks status as the community engagement leader amongst all NRL clubs.
Then further building on the work being carried out by the boys, has been the addition of the NRLW women’s team in 2023, with an eager and enthusiastic group all looking to also have an impact in the community and to inspire the next generation.
While all the Sharks women’s squad have played their part, Jada Taylor, a proud Gamilaroi woman originally from Tamworth in Northern NSW, has been at the forefront in delivering the Deadly Choices Indigenous Health, along with anti-racism programs, to students in the Sutherland Shire.
Visiting Primary and Secondary schools, Taylor has been instrumental in supporting health education, promoting required health checks and wellbeing support.
Like Rudolf, Taylor’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed by the NRL, emphasised by her nomination as a Finalist for the Veronica White Medal - Woman of the Year, the NRLW’s equivalent to the Ken Stephen.
Two singled out and celebrated, however at the Sharks it’s a team effort on and off the field, with the community the beneficiary.