As the Sharks sweated it out during an arduous pre-season under a blazing shire sun, you would forgive Cronulla’s back-row feeling like they were being watched.
With 45 State of Origin appearances between them as well as 54 Tests for Australia, there wouldn’t be many better trios to learn from for a young second rower than Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Wade Graham.
For Scott Sorensen, it was like enrolling in the best apprenticeship school he could find.
“I’m very lucky, for sure. All the experience here. It’s not always necessarily what they say and the advice they give. With Wadeo and Gal and Lewy it’s really their actions that speak louder than words,” Sorensen told the Leader.
“I watched them all pre-season. I’d be silly not to. They’ve got all the experience but the little things like how they prepare for training or whether it’s stretching or ice baths they tick all the boxes before they go out on the field.
“And their intensity in everything they do, they compete so hard and watching them do it rubs off on you and you want to compete and you take it from training out on the field and it becomes second nature.
“How professional they are with their body, how they train. They show the boys if you want to play first grade and be a part of this squad this is the benchmark that we’ve set here and the standard that we want to keep.
“It’s awesome to be part of it and I’m just enjoying every minute. Being a bit of a sponge at the moment just soaking it all in. I’m in a very lucky position.”
The Sharks junior returned to the club this season after stints at South Sydney and Canberra. But with just five NRL appearances under his belt Sorensen was desperate for an opportunity.
With Cronulla’s back-row decimated by injury earlier in the campaign, coach Shane Flanagan gave Sorensen his chance against Penrith in round seven. And the 25-year-old didn’t disappoint, scoring his first NRL try in a four-point victory.
He has since earned Flanagan’s trust as a first grader. Even with the return of Gallen, Lewis and Graham, Sorensen has kept his place in the squad, featuring nine times so far this season despite the set back of suffering a broken hand.
Sorensen will again expect to feature when Cronulla host North Queensland on Saturday night, another must-win clash if the Sharks are going to crack the NRL’s top four.
“I didn’t really know what to expect coming back. I was really happy with how I was going, trying to put my best foot forward,” he said.
“To be back in the team now and coming off the bench whether I’m playing one minute or 80 minutes I’m really enjoying what I’m doing. Just really trying to keep it simple and do my role for the team. Run hard and make my tackles, it sounds simple but I just want to nail my job.
“I speak to the family about it a bit as well and that’s one thing I realise. Flano has got faith in me, he’s backed me, has confidence in me to do my role. He knows I’m going out there and I’m going to do my job.
“He tells me keep it simple, do my role and the rest will take care of itself. It’s not about going out there and being flash or flamboyant it’s just doing my job for the team.”
When Sorensen speaks of family, fewer players would have as many family ties to a club than him. The nephew of Sharks greats Kurt and Dane, Sorensen also calls Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend his brother-in-law.
The club, and the shire, is in his blood. Sorensen grew up at Cronulla, spending afternoons sitting on the family hill at Shark Park watching his childhood heroes Adam Dykes, Nigel Vagana and, of course, Gallen, among others.
He attended De La Salle, Caringbah and Endeavour Sports high schools. And he was there at the 2016 grand final in the stands, cheering on his boyhood club.
“Having family ties to the club and Chad as well has been a massive help for my transition coming back into first grade,” he said.
“Growing up in Cronulla and getting to put back on the black, white and blue after being away for a bit makes it that bit more special.
“Being up on the family hill, not necessarily watching the game but socialising, enjoying myself as a young bloke. Being up on the hill and then walking in the sheds as a kid, being around those types of players just idolising them and having that dream to one day run out to be a Shark.
“Now I’m doing it, it’s pretty special.”