Loyal Marlin Harry Bergelin desperate to break Shute Shield premiership drought

By Matt Findlay

Flick through the imaginary Shute Shield dictionary, land on Harry Bergelin’s name and you’d find a simple, dutiful definition, encapsulating the Marlins’ flanker perfectly – Manly, through and through.

Born and bred on the northern beaches, the 28-year-old is a graduate of the Manly Roos and was schooled at St Paul’s Catholic College and has now gone on to make more than 100 top grade appearance for the Marlins.

While it’s far from the mercenary-like scenes of the NBA, NFL or even the NRL and there’s plenty of one-club players scattered throughout the competition, in a sphere of ever-increasing professionalism Bergelin remains somewhat of a throwback to the tribalism of yesteryear.

Granted that tribalism hasn’t exactly left the north, you need only to have seen the 10,000 or so on hand for the Battle of the Beaches a few weeks ago to see that.

“I guess I haven’t really left the bubble yet at all. I never really felt the need, I think I like the lifestyle here too much,” Bergelin laughed.

“I did have the opportunity to go to school at Joey’s and I did think about it but I didn’t really feel the need, I was happy here and happy where I was going as a young bloke.

“I’ve had a lot of good years at the Marlins, I’m in my eighth year in the grades now. “Obviously that 2015 season is a real highlight, we sort of considered ourselves underdogs for most of that year and we were up against it, but we really clicked as a side and went on to make the grand final.

“That whole week leading up to the grand final was actually a real highlight, it was pretty special, although the result didn’t go our way.”

That decider, at Concord Oval, remains a famous one.

A try-less game, Eastwood five-eighth Jai Ayoub nailing a 40-metre drop to seal a 15-12 victory and the Woodies’ second premiership in a row.

“For a try-less game I actually think it was really entertaining, the physicality of it and how hard-fought it was,” Bergelin said.

“It was really tit-for-tat, there was a strong wind and whoever had that scored the points, they just had it in the second half.

“After the game both teams sort of went in the changeroom and even though they’d won there was a lot of respect there, it could’ve gone either way, Eastwood just got there in the end that day.”

That was the closest Bergelin’s been to hoisting the Shute Shield, in fact his Marlins haven’t done so since 1997’s famed grand final win over Eastwood.

That’s the goal in 2019 though, it always is.

“No one would be playing if they didn’t want to win the premiership,” Bergelin said.

“You might get one side who is more focused on improving but I think every team at the start of a season would say they’re wanting to win the premiership.

“This year, definitely, it’s so close. A few weeks ago everyone was beating everyone, there wasn’t really any sort of favourites week-to-week, but Easts were red-hot (title) favourites and now they’re sitting sixth, so it’s hotly-contested this year.

“I think everyone still has the thought they’ll come good at the right time of year, we certainly do, we definitely believe we’re going to be able to string a few games together and start beating the sides above us as well as those below us.”

The fifth-placed Marlins will have the chance to do just that this weekend against reigning champions Sydney University, although it’s a tougher task considering Manly will be on the road.

“For the last few years we’ve just been towelled up by Uni, especially at Uni, it’s been a bit of a graveyard for us,” Bergelin said.

“I think we’ve just gone into our shell a bit when we’ve gone to play at Uni in the past so this week’s a big challenge, and I think we’ll know pretty quickly if we’ve turned up and if we’re there or not.”

Bergelin will line up on the side of the Marlins’ scrum once again, the 28-year-old flanker possessing a rather unique set of skills comparatively, some of which were honed in the sevens arena.

He “floated around” the Australian Sevens program during his colts years before making his debut at the International Noosa Sevens in 2014.

“I was sort of always on the fringe and I think I was alright at playing it, I was just never great at training,” Bergelin laughed.

“Honestly I probably just wasn’t fast enough, sevens is a funny one. It’s turned into its own sport now and you have to be quite specialised in a way, you have to be pretty bloody fast and pretty bloody strong so I just missed out there.

“It was great experience though, it certainly fine tunes your skills a bit and I’ve done a lot of trips and things with other teams through sevens, which is awesome.

“Having that association with the Aussie sevens, you do get other opportunities from it.”

Bergelin and his Marlins face the fourth-placed students at University’s No.1 Oval from 3pm on Saturday afternoon.