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Sharks prop Braden Hamlin-Uele.

Dedication to preparation is helping breakout Sharks rookies Braden Hamlin-Uele and Briton Nikora manage the strain of an exhausting season.

Explosive prop Hamlin-Uele, who hadn't played consecutive NRL matches before this year, rarely consumes alcohol and maintains a strict diet to ensure he's at his best each week.

"It's getting to a point where it's becoming a bit more difficult. The hype around playing NRL has gone a bit now that I've cemented myself in the team," Hamlin-Uele told

"There are young boys coming through the grades that are freaks and if I slip up a couple weeks in a row I could be out. I want to solidify my spot and stay an NRL player. It's been a hard transition but I've enjoyed every minute of it.

"Definitely the off-field stuff, diet and drinking - I haven't done much of that this year. I'm 24 now ... so I've got to mature someday. Better late than never."

Hamlin-Uele has found it easy to resist the booze. He gravitated away from the party lifestyle when he realised it was make-or-break for his career.

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"When I started playing regular first grade, I was like, 'I'm playing a professional game right now - I've got to be professional on and off the field'. That's just something that happened and I don't really miss [drinking]," Hamlin-Uele said.

New Zealand international Nikora said preserving his body has been the biggest lesson during his rapid rise.

The hard-running back-rower coasted through the juniors and reserve grade without putting much stock in recovery but quickly realised it's a prerequisite for NRL success.

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"Playing week-to-week takes a toll on your body. Recovery is a big part in our schedule, our coaches are big on looking after your body," Nikora said.

"I didn't really take any notice of that coming through the grades, I just played every week."

The heightened standards of the NRL aren't the only thing Hamlin-Uele is acclimatising to. He admitted the growing interest from the media and fans is surreal.

"I didn't think last year or the beginning of this year that I'd ever be in demand for media," Hamlin-Uele said.

"It's definitely a humbling experience. Young kids in school that play footy in the [Sutherland] Shire want to have a photo here and there. I was once there myself - seeing someone that's on TV, you want to get a photo. So I'm more than happy to give them the time.

"I didn't think a bloke like myself would be able to make such an impact on kids. But knowing that I do and having kids know my name when I'm in the street, it's insane. That's why I do it, to make people proud."

Sharks back-rower Briton Nikora.
Sharks back-rower Briton Nikora. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Ninth-placed Cronulla's season is on the line when they face rivals St George Illawarra in the local derby at PointsBet Stadium on Sunday.

And the Sharks are passionate as ever to defeat their struggling "big brother".

"Bomber [coach John Morris] said there are only two people in the Shire - Sharks supporters and Dragons supporters," Hamlin-Uele said.

"We'll be looking forward to this game and having it at our home ground. We got it done down there [in Wollongong in round 11] but they beat us two times last year, so we still owe them."

I'm 24 now ... so I've got to mature someday. Better late than never

Sharks prop Braden Hamlin-Uele

Sunday's clash falls during Women in League Round and Hamlin-Uele feels indebted to the ladies in his life, namely his mum, grandmother and sister.

"My sister's younger than me but she used to get dragged to every Saturday morning game back home in Auckland. Rain, hail or shine she'd be there," he said.

"My mum would sacrifice a lot and my grandma would do the same thing, she'd come out and support all us kids. Every game they'd be there and they'd be the loudest on the sideline."

The occasion is also special for Nikora.

"I'll represent my mum, my sisters, my aunties. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't be here, especially my mum," he said.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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