‘Small in stature but played with the biggest heart’: Sharks remember Green before Cowboys clash

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Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon sat the Sharks players down on Tuesday and reminded them of what Paul Green meant to the Shire club.

There will be tears on Thursday night at PointsBet Stadium when the Sharks and North Queensland play for the inaugural Paul Green Medal.

Green died last August, just a few days after he had shared a few beers with Fitzgibbon and assistant Josh Hannay into the wee hours in the Sharks sheds after a victory.

It remains one of Fitzgibbon’s fondest memories – and he is proud his late mate will now forever be remembered by the new medal in his honour.

The winning coach will decide the recipient, with Green’s wife Amanda and their children to make the trip to PointsBet Stadium to present the award.

A number of Green’s friends, including Andrew Gee, Craig Greenhill, Andrew Ettingshausen, Shane Webcke and Mat Rogers, will also be in attendance for what will be a special night.

Coach Paul Green holds the NRL trophy on grand final day in 2015 before steering the Cowboys to their only premiership win later in the day.Credit: Getty Images

Green played 95 games for Cronulla and coached the Cowboys to their only premiership in 2015.

Fitzgibbon said it was important the players put in a performance that Green would have been proud of.

“Thursday night will be a celebration for Greeny and his family,” Fitzgibbon said on Tuesday at the back of the main grandstand, just a few metres from where he shared that last drink with Green.

“You don’t have to look far to realise how important he was to both clubs.

“When we played at the Roosters together, we both lived in Cronulla, I lived in his unit, so we hung out and would drive to training together.”

Matt Moylan and forward Braden Hamlin-Uele, who was handed his NRL debut by Green in 2017 at the Cowboys, spoke about Fitzgibbon’s words for Green, who was only 49 when he died.

“Greeny played 95 games here, won the Rothmans Medal, and he epitomised what this club is, which is walking tall,” Hamlin-Uele said.

“He was small in stature but played with the biggest heart, and that’s what we aspire to do here. He meant a lot to both clubs, so this medal is special.”

The late Paul Green will have a medal played for in his honour for the first time on Thursday night.Credit: Fairfax

Moylan said of Fitzgibbon’s pre-training message about Green: “He wanted us to know about the history of the club, and about the people who wore the jerseys and the respect they showed for the jersey before us. He wants us to do the same now.”

An early favourite to win the Paul Green Medal will be Nicho Hynes, the Dally M winner and Cronulla playmaker who Moylan gets to enjoy watching from up close every weekend. Hynes also wears the same No.7 jersey that Green wore.

For all the big-moment plays Hynes produces nearly every week, Moylan said it was his kicking game that had impressed him the most.

“One thing that doesn’t get noticed much is where he’s kicking the ball, where he’s turning the ball over to the opposition, and how he’s getting us into games with his kicking game; he’s nailing all the little things in his game,” Moylan said.

The Cowboys triumphed in a golden-point qualifying-final thriller last year, and they will try to build on their win over Newcastle last weekend.

Cronulla are shooting for three straight wins. Back-rower Briton Nikora sat out training on Tuesday with ice on his right knee, but is expected to play, while the club confirmed Matt Ikuvalu had exited the club to take up a deal with Super League title contenders Catalans.

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