The Cronulla Sharks have confirmed youngster Thomas Hazleton will be promoted to their Top 30 for 2023.
The move to promote the young forward, who made his NRL debut in Round 12 against the Sydney Roosters with a 20-minute performance that also brought a total of 60 run metres, comes alongside a contract extension.
The 23-year-old, who has been a strong performer at NSW Cup level this season for the Newtown Jets, has been locked up for a further two seasons which will see him remain in the Shire until at least the end of the 2024 season.
With plenty of size - at 198 centimetres and 115 kilograms - Hazleton has been with Cronulla's program since the end of 2017, and has played his way through the club's pathways.
Hazleton said that while the road has been bumpy thanks to COVID, he has stuck through the course to reap the rewards, while also paying plenty of credit to coach Craig Fitzgibbon.
“I’ve been here for five years now. It’s been a bit bumpy at times with a few injuries and Covid but it’s exciting to be a part of it here at the Sharks for the next few years,” Hazleton said.
“It was tough at times, you didn’t think opportunities like his would come about, back-to-back years of not knowing what was going to happen.
“But it helped in a way. A few figured it might not be for them, then myself and a few others stuck through it and are now reaping the rewards.
“He’s (Fitzgibbon) been super helpful for me. At the start of pre-season he hadn’t even seen me play footy, but he’s helped me a lot along the way, little ways to improve my game and even outside of footy as well,” he said.
“He’s all about being a good person as much as being a good player and I’ve also taken that on board.”
With the Sharks in the midst of potentially overhauling their forward pack, with decisions still to be made on the future of both Andrew Fifita and Aiden Tolman, Hazleton can expect to see plenty of first grade minutes in the next two seasons.