Cronulla’s Toby Rudolf was due to enjoy an emotional ‘Redcliffe homecoming’ in a game against the Manly Sea Eagles on August 1, when the snap COVID-19 lockdown intervened.
He will now get the chance on Sunday in front of a 50 per cent capacity Redcliffe crowd, which will include good mate and Dolphins Captain Cameron Cullen. He’s looking forward to seeing Rudolf play at Redcliffe again.
The Cronulla Sharks play the Newcastle Knights at 4pm.
Caboolture-born Dolphins junior Corey Horsburg will also enjoy a ‘Redcliffe homecoming’, when the Bulldogs play the Warriors at Moreton Daily Stadium at 1.50pm.
Dolphins General Manager of Football Operations Grant Cleal says Horsburg’s brother and father also played for the club.
“I remember a tall, red-headed, scrawny kid. I like red-headed forwards, they tend to work out,” he says.
Cleal says the North Queensland Cowboys signed Horsburg in under-20s and he was snapped up by the Canberra Raiders after that. He is ‘on loan’ to the Bulldogs at present.
“He was a very good player at junior level. It’s a shame he didn’t go through the ranks at the Dolphins to Colts and the Intrust Super Cup but he took a different path and it worked out for him,” he says.
Cleal is hoping he can take a few minutes on Sunday to see Horsburg and Rudolf play.
“I know a few of the guys and a few of the staff have bought tickets,” he says.
Rudolf has credited him and senior players at the club for reviving his love of the game and setting him on the path to the NRL.
“It was nice of him to say that but in all those cases … guys like Toby … the first thing they have to do is put in the work. That’s what he did,” Cleal says.
“He had a very good work ethic and he enjoyed the level he was playing at, at the time. It’s good to have goals and looking forward to the NRL but if it consumes you, you can find you’re going backwards. He wasn’t looking too far ahead and enjoyed playing at the QCup level.”
Cleal says Rudolf was a really likeable player around the club and a good person to have around during the grind of the season.
The 2018 Dolphins premiership-winning player says that season with the club had a profound impact on his life.
“I’d be nothing without the Dolphins, they gave me a start in a lot of ways,” Rudolf says.
“I moved over there (to the Dolphins) with the hope of maintaining a starting point in the Q Cup, did that and had probably the best year of my life.
“That’s when my career started, really. I came from the Rabbitohs in a first-grade system where I didn’t really do anything, didn’t really flourish. I was the only player in that squad to not play first-grade and was left with a decision – do I keep playing or do I hang up the boots and try get on with my life and get a real job?”
The now 25-year-old says he had mates who had played in the Queensland Cup and Anthony Cherrington suggested he try Redcliffe.
“He had played for the Dolphins. He said that it would be really good for me and I’d love it, so I just told my manager I wanted to do that – get out of Sydney and put all my eggs in one basket and do my best in the QCup,” Rudolf recalls.
He played off the bench in round 1, 2019, and says a conversation with coach Adam Mogg in which he asked for an opportunity to be in the starting squad was a turning point.
“True to his word he put me in the starting team in the second round, my whole family came up to see me against the Burleigh Bears at the Gold Coast,” Rudolf recalls.
“Something happened that game, I had a blinder of a game and every day after that I was trying to put my best foot forward and kept playing well, we kept playing well as a team … winning a lot of games.
“It was just that whole transformation from being an unwanted player with the Rabbitohs, then actually being a half-decent player for the Dolphins and winning a comp and getting back to Sydney with a first-grade contract and meeting a lot of really good people along the way.”
He credits General Manager of Football Operations Grant Cleal and his teammates for improving his game.
“The main thing I learnt from Redcliffe was that I can compete with the best. They put belief in me and added a bit of confidence. I was lacking in both those areas so much, when I first arrived at the club. Through the players I was with there, the likes of Cameron Cullen, Sam Anderson and Nathan Watts, there was just lot of belief they put in me,” he says.
There are two things Rudolf is looking forward to about Sunday’s game.
“Running out of that 30m tunnel, with the Des Webb painting on the wall … I love that tunnel… but probably what I’m looking forward to the most is seeing all the fans that used to pack out the stadium,” he says.
“I’d love to see some familiar faces and soak in the atmosphere that Moreton Daily Stadium can now produce.
“Just look out for my dolphin fin/shark fin that I’ll be giving all the fans out there. This will just be whenever I’m not doing something, I’ll get the shark fin/dolphin fin out.”
Limited tickets are available via Ticketek