The Cronulla Sharks currently sit fourth on the NRL ladder, with five wins and two losses.
However, the Sharks' early success doesn't seem to be the only surprise story coming out of the Shire.
Former garbage man Siosifa Talakai has captured the eyes of fans and the bodies of his competitions' right-edges.
Talakai, who was once touted as a future gun when coming up through the ranks of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, thought his career was over only a few years back when he was collecting rubbish as a garbage man in Leichardt.
After joining the Sharks on a train and trial contract in 2020, Talakai has started to build a name for himself. And now, seven rounds into the 2022 season, that name is known throughout the entire NRL.
Talakai has exploded in the early parts of this season, totalling five tries and 43 tackle breaks while forming one of the deadliest centre/wing combinations in the NRL with his counterpart Ronaldo Mulitalo.
Following the heavyweight's latest performance against the Manly Sea Eagles, in which he played one of the most dominating first halves of rugby league in recent memory, Talakai's potential future asking price has sky-rocketed.
The 25-year-old is currently contracted with the Sharks until the end of the 2023 season, however, come the November 1 deadline rival NRL clubs will be able to compete with Cronulla in vying for the star's services past next year.
According to The Daily Telegraph, Cronulla management has been in discussions to extend Talakai's contract since February of this year.
And, the Sharks are apparently eager to take the phenom off the market with a deal that will see him in the Shire for the long-term.
“I’d love him to stay, not only because I like the kid and I love what he can do for us, but I’d actually hate to play against him,’’ Talakai's teammate Toby Rudolf told The Daily Telegraph.
“I’d hate to be on the receiving end of his tackles and I’d hate to tackle him.
“I know he likes it here and hopefully the Sharks can get it done.”
Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon, who has moved Talakai around the field throughout the first seven rounds - starting him in the second row before moving him to centre in the place of injured Connor Tracey - is confident the barnstormer will be able to handle the newfound hype.
“He’s very humble and he’s quite shy,’’ Fitzgibbon said.
“He’s getting a lesson in attention and how to handle himself. But the thing with Sifa is, he’s staying humble, he think he can better and improve.
“He’s not getting distracted by it.
“He’s a good story though, he’s shot out of a cannon the last couple of weeks with the way he’s played and we want to maintain his consistency and be really crystal clear on his role."
According to the Daily Telegraph's Phil Rothfield, Talakai's current deal is worth around $300,000 a season over the next two years, but the former Mascot product will be looking to his new deal put him in the upper echelon of paid centres - Valentine Holmes ($750,000), Joseph Manu ($720,000) and Katoni Staggs ($700,000).
Calm down Cronulla. Talakai has looked good the last month, but wait and see if he can maintain the form. Even my grandmother would have looked good against poor Morgan Harper last week.
Now, if the top rate being paid for centres is around $750K, and his manager is already talking that sort of money, then let Sosifa prove he’s worth it between now and November 1. If the last month has been just a flash in the pan, then you can save your money and let someone else pay crazy dollars for him.
If you want to sign him NOW – and, remember, you’ve already got him for the rest of this season and all of next – then offer him $500K for three years, or $550 for a two year deal. If he doesn’t like the sound of either, then tell him you’ll wait until the end of the season and see if his form has been good enough for long enough to justify more.
Do not forget how Shane Flanagan signed Josh Dugan on a long deal for $850K per, and what huge drag he was on the salary cap, delivering bugger-all for years.
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