Official Thomas Hazelton

apezza

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I don't really get that first line... is that the fans, at training... a voice in Tommy's head?
"But I always have a laugh when I come off and hear people telling me to get on and bring Nicho off and play halfback."
 

egg

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No wonder he's good
Skilful sportsman

Tom Hazelton’s eyes begin to glisten.

The towering Cronulla prop is looking out over Shark Park, where on Saturday night, the six-foot-six cult-figure will charge into a pack of menacing Roosters.

The Cronulla crowd-favourite, who was scouted by Sharks legend Gavin Miller, then peers towards the end of the ground where the old scoreboard was and points to a patch of grass.

“That’s where Mum and Dad stand every week,’’ Hazelton says.

“They drive two-and-half hours from Goulburn, so they prefer to stand as opposed to sit down for the game before turning around again to drive home.

“I get emotional when I look over, and Dad does too, knowing that he may never have been around to see all this.”

Adrian Hazelton was attached to machines and laying in a helicopter when his only son first laid eyes on him.

Before Cronulla fans knew to chant the name “Hazo” at every game he plays, Hazelton had been driving home from Sharks training in 2018 when he received a panicked phone call from his sister Ellie.

“Dad’s had a massive heart attack,’’ she said.

In his sweaty training gear, Hazelton kept driving from Cronulla to his family’s home town of Goulburn.

To this day, the drive remains a blur of nothingness, a swirl of emotional thoughts, prayers, hopes and dreams.

“I pulled straight into Goulburn hospital and both my sisters (Ellie and Nicola) were there and the helicopter was getting ready to take off for Concord Hospital,” Hazelton said.

“At that moment, it hit me.”

“His blood pressure was 42 over 40. How he was alive, we don’t know.’’

At the time, Hazelton had only just arrived at the Sharks on a training contract.

Yet with his mother, Julie, juggling work in between commuting back and forth from Goulburn to Sydney every day to spend time with Adrian in hospital, Hazelton thought about quitting football to be back around his family.

“I thought, do I just go home?,” Hazelton said.

“But I owed it to her (mum) to have a crack. Knowing what she’d done through that time to support Dad, it would’ve been an easy way out for me to pack it all in.’’

It’s a good thing he did.

It wasn’t only Julie that Hazelton wanted to repay. There was of course, Miller, the Cronulla Immortal.

“If not for Gavin Miller, I don’t know if I would be here,’’ Hazelton said.

“I’d probably still be playing in Goulburn.

“It’s a debt I’ll never be able to repay him.’’

The magnitude of Hazelton being found by Miller, who Matty Johns has praised as the best ball-player of the modern-era, is surpassed only by the fact that the Sharks prop was found at all.

It would be unfair to suggest Hazelton, 24, has come from nowhere to be a key member of the Sharks elimination final forward pack.

But it’s not far off.

Hazelton was a soccer player until he was 15. Incredibly, his first game of rugby league was only nine years ago.

A centre-back mainly for the South Coast Wolves representative soccer team, Hazelton lived and breathed the round-ball game.

Physically capable in the air and skillful with his feet, Hazelton also dabbled as a striker, where he scored three goals for NSW Country at the National Championships in 2012.

His dream was to join the players he would play with and against most weeks, including A-League players Daniel Arzani, Tate Russell and Jake Trew.

“There were a lot of guys I played against that have gone for the Socceroos,” Hazelton said.

“I always wanted to be a soccer player. I never really thought of footy as a career.”

Hazelton was wrangled into playing league by his schoolmates at 15. He began as a centre, before moving to the backrow and then the front-row.

Within three-years of playing his first game of footy, he was being asked to play first grade at the age of 18 for Goulburn, just like Miller.

“I remember I was back home in Goulburn and I watched him play in a junior game,” Miller recalled this week.

“A few friends of mine then said, this guy has been going good all year.

“I thought, god, this young boy might have a role to play at Cronulla.”

With a lump in his throat and pride beating from his chest, Miller presented Hazelton his NRL debut jersey in round 12, 2022, which was ironically against the Roosters.

“I’m so proud of him, I really am,’’ Miller told this masthead.

“He’s repaying me every time I see him on TV. He owes me nothing. I’m just so proud of him.’’

In an era of the game that is suited to chiselled power forwards with quick feet and barrelled chests, Hazelton is a throwback of-sorts with his huge frame delivering three tries and 18 tackle busts in as many games this season.

He is a genuine crowd-pleaser, particularly with his bald head which he straps with black electrical tape, similar to Miller, some 30-years ago.

“It (fan reaction) probably stems from the bald head and the tape,” Hazelton smiles.

“For whatever reason, it does excite people when I do play here at home, which I think gives the team a lift as well.

“But I haven’t done anything special yet. I’m still getting to where I eventually I want to be.

“I’ve found what works for me and I’m just trying to make sure that when I do get on the field, we don’t lose anything.

“I want the staff, the players to trust me enough not to let them down.”

Hazelton’s unorthodox journey to the big time continues in his first finals appearance against the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night.

Among the sold-out 13,000 crowd will be a proud father with tears in his eyes.

You know exactly where he’ll be standing.
 

Rob

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Got better as the year went on.
The few handling errors in the last couple of games is a good thing, he will now be aware and focus on it over the offseason.

Hope his injury doesn’t take too long to heal and he gets a break before going back to training.
 
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Driving through Goulburn I use to think of Ivan Milat hoping his life was miserable in a prison cell, now with his demise I drove past thing of big tommy. I’m super excited to cheer him next year.
 

apezza

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Driving through Goulburn I use to think of Ivan Milat hoping his life was miserable in a prison cell, now with his demise I drove past thing of big tommy. I’m super excited to cheer him next year.

I wonder if some of those guys in Goulburn prison wonder how miserable it must feel to be a Sharks supporter
 
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Any news on what his injury was and recovery times.
I know it’s irrelevant for 2023 but I’m hoping he gets a full preseason in for 2024
 

Capital_Shark

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We keep injury news to a minimum during the season. Be surprised if we hear much at least until he's fit.
 

apezza

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I'd imagine that he's already stepped out of the hospital bed with cords attached and accidentally taken the mattress with him.

The cords probably got caught on the tape which had started peeling off his head
 
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