Tyrell Sloan has always been renowned for his attacking prowess, but the St George Illawarra fullback now prides himself equally on his defensive ability.
Sloan, who has already created one of the highlights of the season when he outpaced Dolphins speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to score in Round 5, also leads the Telstra Premiership for try saves with three in five matches.
It’s an area of the game that the 20-year-old has focused heavily on after being challenged by Dragons coach Anthony Griffin to take charge of the team’s defence close to their line.
Sloan and Hunt desperate in defence
“That is Hook’s main thing with me,” Sloan said. “I am the defensive captain at the back and wherever I can I try to put myself in the right position to help my team.
“It’s something I am really proud of, and hopefully I can start getting a bit of recognition for it.
"Everyone expects me to be an attacking player, but if I can continue to work on that side of my game and save some more tries, I’ll be really happy with that.”
There have never been any doubts about Sloan’s ability to score tries, but the Dapto junior had to prove he could also stop opposition from scoring before being handed his NRL debut in Round 15 of the 2021 season against Canberra.
With Griffin and the coaching staff on hand to watch Jack de Belin in his comeback against Western Suburbs Magpies a few weeks earlier, Sloan helped convince them he was ready when he held out giant prop Stefano Utoikamanu.
However, he did not produce a try save in his previous 13 NRL appearances before this season.
Sloan and Tabuai-Fidow in a foot race
He has now made the most try saves in the NRL, along with Eels fullback Clint Gutherson, Knights forward Tyson Frizell and Rabbitohs centre Isaiah Tass, who have three each.
Sloan, who has scored three tries so far this season, produced try saves against the Broncos, Sharks and Dolphins.
“It is something I am starting to love now,” Sloan said. “Saving tries is almost as good as scoring them.
I keep a tally each week of how many tries I save, instead of how many I score.
“I came into grade probably relying on my attack and that is my game – my attacking style - but being a first grader, you have got to be able to do all things.
“I love to score tries but I get a lot more respect if I can save one for the boys and that is something I have really worked hard to improve.”
While still the youngest member of the St George Illawarra starting line-up, Sloan has also had to take responsibility for organising the team’s defence near their try line.
Modern fullback greats Anthony Minichiello and Billy Slater made an art form or calling the shots from the back and Sloan said Queensland Origin utility Moses Mbye had been helping him learn how to organise the defensive line.
Match: Raiders v Dragons
Round 7 -
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
“I am really proud of being able to take charge of the defence and be a leader in the team,” Sloan said. “It is not just with my involvements defensively, but with the ball as well.
“I want to keep working hard on being a leader, and playing alongside the likes of Benny Hunt, Moses Mbye, Jack de Belin, Jack Bird and all of the games who have played for their state or their country is a privilege.
“If I can keep learning off them I am sure it is going to help my career later on.”