The desire to always compete and overcome the odds are just some of the attributes Sea Eagles legend Noel Cleal likes in second-rower Joel Thompson.
‘Crusher’ Cleal, the respected Sea Eagles recruitment manager and a former Manly, NSW and player, today presented Thompson with his 200th NRL game jersey ahead of tomorrow night’s clash with the Sydney Roosters at Lottoland. Both grew up in the country and followed the Sea Eagles as young kids.
In doing so, Thompson becomes the 332nd player to reach 200 first grade games, or 3.4 per cent of all first-grade players according to renowned league historian, David Middleton. He made his NRL debut in 2008 for Canberra.
Cleal has nothing but respect for 30-year-old Thompson who has overcome many ‘hurdles’ in his life to become the quality person and player he is today.
“You have to admire Joel’s tenacity. He has done the hard yards and has climbed many hurdles in life,’’ Cleal said.- Noel Cleal
“You spend your life dreaming about playing your first NRL game and when it becomes a reality, it is exciting, but to play 200 games is a wonderful achievement.
“Joel just competes all the time. He competes offensively and defensively. He is a fiercely competitive player.”
Cleal said Thompson deserved all the accolades he receives for his inspirational work in the community outside of rugby league. He won the NRL’s prestigious Ken Stephen Medal in 2016.
“I heard Ray Hadley give Joel a massive wrap on his show this morning. He talked volumes about the bloke and what he does off the field,’’ Cleal said.
“You don’t realise just how many things he does and how many organisations he is an ambassador for. What he does on the field is matched equally off the field.
“It was a proud moment for me to present Joel with his jersey. I like seeing blokes who come from the hard school of knocks to achieve things, so it was a real honour and pleasure to do it.”