Written by Joshua Dean
Photo by Getty Images
The Cronulla Sutherland Sharks have had major injury struggles over the past few seasons. In 2020, 29 players took the field in an NRL game. For a club that is contending for a top four spot, this is a crazy statistic.
Their recruitment has been hit and miss for several years, however Aiden Tolman signing for this season has potential to be one of the most underrated signings. It may seem to be just an average signing at first glance but Tolman is one of the hardest working players in the NRL.
The Kempsey native offers a lot as a rugby league player, however it’s the intangibles that sets him apart from others. His 275 game experience alone gives the Sharks something that they have been lacking. The team has a lot of young and inexperienced players and he could become a role model leader for the new era of Cronulla.
Tolman’s former club captain, Josh Jackson, said this about his former Bulldog teammate: “He’s definitely the toughest and most selfless player I’ve ever played alongside.” This sounds like a player the Cronulla Sharks have needed for years, an experienced campaigner who will do anything for the jersey.
One of his greatest strengths is his ability to play big minutes for a prop. In 17 games last season, he averaged 60 minutes per game, an incredible amount of minutes for someone who works so hard through the middle. This is so valuable to a team like the Sharks, who tend to suffer several major injuries each season. If a forward goes down, Tolman can fill the void.
Another great strength to his game is the durability Tolman possesses. In his 13 seasons playing first grade, he averages 21 games played per season. You would think that the quantity of games and minutes he has played would lower his quality, however he is one of the most consistent players in the NRL.
Finally, my favourite thing about Aiden Tolman’s game is that he does the little things right, the ‘one percenters’. These aren’t seen by the casual fan, however they are a big reason why Tolman is rated so highly by coaches. Most of the little things he does aren’t statistically counted, however there is one major area that will be massive for the Sharks and in particular Shaun Johnson. In 2020, Tolman was first in the NRL for decoy runs with 170. This may seem irrelevant, however some of these runs may lead to line breaks or even tries. Imagine having him making countless decoys while Shaun Johnson has the ball. It makes the Sharks attack even more dangerous.