Talking with Blayke Brailey about forging an NRL career despite doubters

Having worked his way up the junior ranks of the Cronulla Sharks while in the shadow of his brother, Blayke Brailey finally got the opportunity to write his own story in NRL season 2020.

When Jayden, three years Blayke's senior, signed a long-term deal with Newcastle at the end of 2019, it was official that Blayke would be handed his brother's No. 9 jumper at the Sharks.

No longer would his only task be to spell Jayden in the final minutes of the game. At 21 years of age, he was now a leader at the Sharks.

"Playing the whole 80 minutes has been pretty comfortable actually," Brailey told the Talking with TK podcast. "I found playing the 80 is easier than the last 20."

"I sort of felt like, playing that last 20 minutes, I had to fit so much football into that small period of time.

"Definitely with the 80 minutes I'm more comfortable - I can play the way I want to."

Brailey's ascendency into the NRL certainly wasn't without its challenges, with his relatively small size a constant point of contention.

"It's sort of the main thing that had kept dwelling in my head," he said.

"A lot of people said I was too small, I was too skinny, I wasn't heavy enough to play NRL - but I knew my skill and had the confidence in myself that I knew I could do it.

"Still to this day I'm getting told I need to put on weight, but I'm used to it now so it's nothing different."

Brailey revealed that he had failed to make any representative teams until Year 12 of high school, with his size undoubtedly playing a part.

He claimed, however, that comments about his size only motivated him to chase an NRL career even harder.

"It is a driver for me to prove them wrong, in a way," he said, "I don't like when people bring up my weight.

"I feel like Cameron Smith is the best player in the NRL, but he's not the biggest, he's not the strongest, he's not the fastest.

"But he just seems to control and be a strong part of the game in every single game he plays."

He went on to cite Smith as a player he's always attempted to base his own game on, as any young hooker in the NRL should.

"Cameron Smith, Josh Hodgson and my brother are probably the three players I watch closely.

"Cameron Smith's kicking game, how he controls the game and how calm he is in the middle of the ruck is just something I watch closely.

"I'm sort of hoping to bring that to my game... I'm not going to be the biggest or the strongest, but I'm hoping my calm and composure in the middle will be a real big threat for us at Cronulla."

In just his second year of first grade, whether Brailey can reach the heights of the great Cameron Smith remains to be seen.

Regardless, he'll go on to carve out his own path in the NRL and prove his doubters wrong - as he always has.