Manly 2016 Season Preview with Damien Cummins

The man they call 'Turtle': Damien Cummins gets his point across - Photo: Adam MacDonald

by Paul Cook –

Last Year: 1st (Runners-up)

Ins: Scott Bradley (Warringah); James Graham (Eastern Suburbs); Adrian Hall (WA); Hilton Mexted (NZ); Fabian Netoli (Italy); Junior Palau (Warringah); Jack Reid (Canberra); Hayden Thompson-Stringer (Saracens, UK); Josh Turner (NZ); Johann Wagner (Scotland)

Outs: Reece Hodge (Rebels); Matt Lucas (Waratahs); Dave Porecki (London Irish, UK); Ed Gower (Italy); Alex Northam (La Rochelle, France)

Coaching Team: Director of Rugby – Brian Melrose / Head coach – Damien Cummins / Assistant – Dan Brown

Captain: James Hilterbrand


“I think like all clubs, we’re bigger, faster, stronger and better than last year. We’ve had good numbers – 70-80-odd at training – which has been great, Brian Melrose has come back to the club as Director of Rugby and he’s been doing all the recruiting and been fantastic. His knowledge and experience just adds another string to the bow, and we’ve also got Steve Talbot back with us as 2nd grade coach, and that throws another experienced player/coach into our ranks.”

“David Begg was supposed to finish as club President at the end of last year but he’s going around again for another year because he wants to win a Premiership! But right now, I don’t feel under any more pressure than I did last year. To be honest, I didn’t feel pressure at all last year. I don’t know what it was, maybe I was just living on a cloud because it was my first year as a head coach, and maybe your second year is a harder year – I don’t know, I haven’t experienced it yet.”

Key Areas of Improvement:

“Well, I suppose you can improve everywhere in your game but there were a few things in attack that we’ve been working on. We’ve maintained the general structure that we had, there’s only a certain amount of structures and set-ups that you can have in the game so, we’ve just been adding to what we had from last year and tweaking a bit here and there. I don’t think we have to improve too much from what we were doing last year, we just have to be a bit snappier and more clinical when we do it – and it might not be the way you catch and pass, it might be a mental thing. I suppose it’s also about getting the hunger from the players to get there again and go one better, or do they still have a hangover from last season? Not that I’ve seen so far.”

New Sensations:

“I reckon Ethan Uili. He’s a young openside who had his first taste of 1st grade last year behind Kotoni Ale and Mitch Daniel, and he’s had a hell of an off-season and could be a guy to look out for. I’ll also throw in there one of our older players, Tommy Chesters. He’s played a bit of 1st grade down to 3rd grade but he’s just had a booming off-season and been killing it. His attitude is through the roof and he could be a dark horse as one to watch and we’ve also got a young front rower, Alefosio Tatola, who played Tongan U20s last year and could well be the goods for us in 2016.”

What are your hopes/expectations for the Marlins in 2016?

“It takes a lot to get to a grand final and if you get some major injuries to three or four players, that would hurt anybody. If you don’t get those injuries, and you get the bounce of the ball sometimes like we did last year against Norths and West Harbour, when we didn’t play well but came away with two wins, you’re going to be thereabouts. When you’re winning most of the time, you find a way to win, when you’re losing most of the time, you find a way to lose.

“I’m really keen, I’m really excited and I’m doing my Level 3 coaching and there’s a few things I can take out of that. There are other tools that we can use this year and other channels we can tap into, for example, I’ve got a mate who works with Saracens in the UK and we’ve chatted about a few things. I’m just really excited and can’t wait for the season to start. We’ll be there or thereabouts again.”