The shoulder-charge ban and focus on slowing down the play-the-ball has largely eliminated the presence of the genuine, old-school hit-man in rugby league.
Sure, there’s plenty of ferocious defenders in the NRL – Dylan Napa, David Klemmer, Josh Papalii, Paul Gallen and Charlie Gubb to name a few – but the regularity of which the game’s enforcers pull off bell-ringers has decreased massively since the days of Gillespie, Gillmeister, Harragon and Haumono.
But there could be another demon tackler on his way to first grade, with Redcliffe Dolphins lock Tyson Cleal building up a cult following in the InTrust Super Cup with his devastating work on the other side of the ball.
The 21-year-old is reportedly attracting interest from multiple NRL clubs – and there are a few sides that could use a big of extra sting in the engine-room.
A Queensland age-group rep and a Brisbane Broncos NYC graduate, Cleal will have the opportunity to make his pitch for an NRL contract on much bigger stages over the next fortnight. The Dolphins will take on Burleigh in Sunday’s grand final at Suncorp Stadium, and if Redcliffe prevail, they will meet either Mounties or Illawarra in the State Championship on NRL grand final day.
Cleal will also be eager to make up for his last outing in a Suncorp Stadium decider – the fiery tyro was sent off for fighting the 2014 Colts grand final.