Changing Shires: Tully Wilton ready for new challenge at Cronulla Sharks

Tully Wilton in action with Narooma's first-grade side against Tathra in 2019.
Tully Wilton in action with Narooma's first-grade side against Tathra in 2019.

Narooma's Tully Wilton may have a big name (and brother) to follow when he starts his journey with the Cronulla Sharks next year, but he's ready to carve out his own career.

Wilton, 17, will leave for the Sutherland Shire next month for preseason training on a two-year contract he signed last year.

He'll join older brother Teig, who is part of the Sharks' NRL squad, at the club.

"Moving into an apartment with my brother will be awesome," Wilton said. "We'll train together, eat together, and get into good systems which are key to having success in footy.

A lot of people know me up there as Teig's brother, but hopefully one day he'll be known as my brother.

Tully Wilton

"We're pretty close, and you could say I've missed him over the past couple of years. We lived together for 15 years, so I don't think there will be any issues this time around.

"If I can achieve what he's done, I'll have done a good job. It's good to have a bit of competition there, but I'll just do whatever I can to achieve the best for me.

"It's an awesome spot, we've got heaps of family up there. Teig played with the Canberra Raiders early on, but once we got into the Shire with the family and beaches, we couldn't leave it.

"A lot of people know me up there as Teig's brother, but hopefully one day he'll be known as my brother."

Wilton said he doesn't want to get too far ahead of himself.

"I haven't really achieved anything yet, I've just done a couple of trials," he said. "I'll probably start in SG Ball, but I can't really expect anything at the moment.

"Preseason is usually a good indicator of what the club will want from me."

Wilton's move north comes after his impressive season with the Narooma Devils' first-grade side.

He won the Group 16 Rookie of the Year earlier this month as the Devils' starting halfback.

Tully Wilton with his parents Glenn and Vanessa, and Narooma Devils first-grade coach Todd Ayers.

Tully Wilton with his parents Glenn and Vanessa, and Narooma Devils first-grade coach Todd Ayers.

He said his experience with Narooma's first-grade side would be invaluable going forward.

"This year's been awesome, and it's been really good to have the experience of playing with the older boys," he said. "I grew up watching a lot of these guys play first grade, so to play alongside them has been really fun.

"We obviously didn't get the results we wanted this year, but it's still been an awesome experience. I think it will be massive for my progress going forward."

Wilton said he loved the challenge of playing first grade as a teenager, but also helped out the under 18s.

"I love the aggressive side of the game as much as the technical stuff," he said. "I had heaps of conversations with my dad before the season, and he told me if I was going to play first grade this season, I had to rip in. I couldn't just be another number out there.

"I was so nervous before my first game, but I was lucky enough to score a try with my second touch. All the boys got around me after that.

"There's a lot of gun players in that side, so there's a lot of help both on and off the field.

I hate the idea of not making it to the NRL, so I'll do everything I can to get there.

Tully Wilton

"Dad wasn't too keen on me playing two games a day, because it's not smart injury wise. If I was going to play first grade, I had to commit to it."

Wilton said he wouldn't have this opportunity without the support of his family, dad Glen, mum Vanessa, and siblings Cali, Billie, and Teig.

"Dad grew up playing footy, so it's good to have him around to help out," he said. "Mum's always yelling on the sidelines, which can be embarrassing at times, but at the end of the day I love it.

"Their support makes you play better footy, because you don't want to let them down.

"Teig and I have always spoken about playing NRL together, and that's definitely the dream. We used to play footy in the backyard and pretend we were playing in the NRL, so the fact that it's a possibility now is amazing."

Tully (left) and brother Teig with former Sharks players Beau Ryan and Todd Carney in 2013.

Tully (left) and brother Teig with former Sharks players Beau Ryan and Todd Carney in 2013.

Wilton said no matter how far his footy takes him, he'll always love the Narooma Devils and the values they've instilled in him.

"I love to think about the small-town underdog coming on to the scene," he said. "It's something I'll definitely strive for.

"I'll get up there and give it a red-hot crack. I hate the idea of not making it to the NRL, so I'll do everything I can to get there.

"I love everything about Narooma, and everything the club and town have down for me so far, and I'll always love the Narooma Devils."