The Manly Mermaids are an exciting group of players with fantastic sporting background and many ties to the Manly Rugby club. Familiar names like Aliyah Helu (daughter of ex-Marlin and Mermaids coach Alex Helu) has continued the Manly rugby family tradition by wearing the manly jersey, together with Mikaela Hedge who is excited to now be able to put on the boots as well after watching her brother Rohan play for the Marlins.
On Saturday the Manly Mermaids will have the chance to showcase Australia's fastest growing women's sport with a curtain raiser game against Easts at Manly Oval. The game will take place at 2:55pm before the Marlins first grade kick off in their fourth round Shute Shield game.
Let's hear all about the World of Women's Seven's by getting up close and personal to one of our most promising players, Mikaela Hedge...
So, tell us about your playing career – where did you start your rugby career?
I started training in 2014 at 21 with the mermaids.
How has your season been progressing – are you where you want to be?
The season has been a struggle with numbers this year, we just want more game time so we can keep improving. Exhibition matches like this are perfect!
What are your personal goals for the season?
I need to get over my fear of tackling. I know I can do it, it's all a mental game.
Biggest rugby moment/achievement so far?
Being invited to train with the NSW Blue Belles Squad in 2016 felt pretty good
Best attribute as a player? Or worst?
I talk... a lot.
What’s your day job and how do you balance the two?
I'm a nurse which means shift work. Getting to every single training is a tough job sometimes but I love getting a run around with the girls so I do my best to organise my days off for trainings and tournaments where I can. People at work can't believe I use my days off to play rugby of all things..
Player with the best work ethic and why?
Emily (Bollinger) is killing it. Full time work, full time uni, travels to training in Manly from Roseville and puts in 100% every time.
Anything with guac.
Who at the club has the best/worst banter?
Half the girls aren't even 18 yet. There's much drinking yet to be had.
If you could attend any sporting event in the world what would it be?
The Olympic Games in Tokyo
Rugby Hero/Sporting Hero/Hero?
Dan Carter. I know, I'm a traitor. But the man is all class 👌🏼
One word to describe you?
With two out of three wins at the weekend, and with third grade colts recording their first victory in over a year at Keirle Park on Saturday vs Souths, there is a quiet optimism in the Colts camp. So what’s happened, and what does the season have in store? Let’s find out from our Colts Head Coach, Dave Mills.
So Millsy, tell us what’s different this year?
It’s basically all about depth. There is no doubt that last year was a tough year, but we have been working hard during the off season to extend our networks, talking to local schools and with player and coach connections to ensure that we have got the depth required to make a difference across all three grades. We have had some new recruits that have chosen Manly and already have started to shine, and we have some players who stuck with it last season and will now come of age.
So tell us about these new recruits.
We have Jack Veitch who is a country boy joining us from Tamworth, and we have Angus Burns, a prop who has come up from Wogga. Both have already made a huge difference to the squad, and are names in the first grade starting 15 this weekend versus Sydney University. Then we have boys like Lachie Armstrong, who as a Bally Boys student who has yet to reach his 18th birthday, will be planning to add to the illustrious Marlins alumni, and has already shown very positive signs.
But not forgetting the boys who slogged it out with us last season. Players like Kai Lackner who came up from South Australia early last year who committed and worked hard to develop himself as a player despite not coming off the field with a win as frequently as he’d hoped or deserved. Those guys will definitely be rewarded as we progress this year.
How about the coaching staff?
We’ve been lucky to maintain some continuity with our coaching staff, with the addition of some new faces. Alongside Rob Gallacher, Alex Prendergast, Tim Herbert, Tommy Clifford and myself, new to the team are Tom Crerar from NSW Rugby and Rory Toemoe from Lindfield who will be making a difference with our third grade. We are also joined by Wallabies analyst Damon Edmonds who will be adding an extra layer of expertise and detail to support our coaching staff.
So things are definitely moving forward!
Yes, and culturally we have made big steps as well. The performance culture that we have established through the players commitment to training together at the gym has been significant. We have 20 players who are consistently and frequently training together at the gym with our new strength and conditioning coach Max Braham, which, when translated to the field means that things can only get better.
This is however still very much a work in progress. The Colts team has made a commitment to contribute to the Club’s number one objective of winning the club championship in the forthcoming years. Throughout our three grades we are dedicated to this, both in terms of adding to the points tally, but also by providing a robust platform from which the grade players will develop.
This weekend will be a great challenge for us. The boys are looking forward to heading down to Sydney University. I'm particularly interested to see how our third grade boys go as they are high on confidence after their trial and round one wins. Watch this space.