Proud family and friends of Aiden Tolman will travel to watch the Hat Head product reach the incredible milestone of 250 NRL games when his Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs host the Cronulla Sharks this Sunday.
Aiden's parents, Mark and Patricia Tolman, are very proud of their son's NRL achievements but they are more proud of the man he has become on and off the field.
"We are obviously very proud of him and I think it's an incredible achievement for a local lad from Hat Head, who played junior footy with the Smithtown Tigers, to now be on the verge of playing his 250th NRL game," Patricia told the Argus.
"He has built his career on doing all the little things, the one per centers, and I think that helps him lead by example for his team and be a good role model for people on and off the field.
"There are more than 60 family, friends and people who were involved in Aiden reaching this milestone who will be travelling to watch him play on Sunday."
Aiden was never the flashy player on the field, but the Smithtown Tigers junior would always give his all in every game and it was this quality which appealed to Melbourne Storm recruitment officer Peter O'Sullivan.
Aiden travelled to an Australian Institute of Sport trial at Tamworth when he was 15 and O'Sullivan was impressed with the forward's performance.
"Peter spoke with Aiden and his father after the trial and arranged for a meeting in Gladstone. He came and spoke with us as a family and invited Aiden to take part in a training camp over summer in Melbourne," Patricia said.
"Aiden made a commitment to the Storm squad at 16 and after playing for the Australian Schoolboys side when he was in Year 12 in 2006, the Storm asked him to join their first grade training squad for the next year."
After a season playing for the Storm's Queensland Cup feeder side the North Devils, Tolman made his NRL debut in round six of the 2008 season as a 19-year-old and went on to record seven games, including the preliminary final victory over the Cronulla Sharks which advanced the Storm to the grand final.
The now 30-year-old played every NRL match the following season and tasted premiership success in a 23-16 victory over the Parramatta Eels.
Aiden went on to join the Bulldogs in 2011 and helped lead Canterbury to grand final appearances in 2012 and 2014.
The hard working no-nonsense forward remains one of the most consistent players in the NRL today and Patricia claims it's a credit to Aiden's hard work and the loving support group surrounding him.
In his 12th NRL season, the tireless worker has played all 14 games and is averaging 133.4 metres, 14 hit ups and 38 tackles a game.
"Aiden has always worked hard and he deserves the accolades he has received," she said.
"Aiden was lucky to have a lot of people help and mentor him. His grandparents David and Lorraine, who still live in Gladstone, were always there to take him from A to B and he would often drop in there for a meal on the way to the gym.
"Mark Morrison, one of Aiden's teachers, had a massive impact on him and helped him prepare for the NRL."
The St Paul's College student faced numerous challenges as an aspiring NRL player from a small country town, but when hurdles got in his way, there was always someone to lend a helping hand.
"I remember when the gym in Kempsey shut down and Mark arranged for Aiden to meet at Scott Edward's home gym to lift weights in Year 11 and 12," Patricia said.
However, arguably the number one supporter in Aiden's life is his high school sweetheart Zarinah, who is now his wife and mother of his three children.
"Zarinah and Aiden met at a young age and were high school sweet hearts," Patricia said.
"She went with Aiden when he first moved to Melbourne and has always been by his side. The two now have three beautiful children and it will be special to also watch their son Flynn run as a ball boy for Aiden's milestone game on Sunday."
Aiden has another season remaining on his contract with the Bulldogs and with 11 more NRL games this year, including Sunday's game, and another 24 to tally next year, Aiden could reach 284 games by the end of his current contract and be within reach of the illusive 300 NRL game club if he chooses to play on.
"Aiden always had a dream to play in the NRL but I don't think it ever crossed our minds he would have a career as long as he has," Patricia said.
"It's a testament to his hard work, the support around him and a bit of luck along the way."
The Bulldogs host the Sharks at ANZ Stadium this Sunday at 4pm.
Aiden Tolman's accolades:
- 2008 Melbourne Storm Rookie of the Year
- 2009 Melbourne Storm premiership winner
- 2011 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Club Player of the Year
- 2012 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs coach's award
- 2013 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs coach's award
- Three caps for NSW Country
- 2015 Dr George Peponis Medal as NRL Player of the Year alongside Brett Morris
- 2015 named in the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Team of the Decade at the club's 80th anniversary gala
- 2016 named in Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs leadership team
- 2017 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs coach's award
- 2018 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Clubman of the Year award
- 2018 Academic Team of the Year - Aiden is currently completing a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education at Southern Cross University
Stay ahead with local news by signing up for the Macleay Argus newsletter here.
Also making the news: