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Marlins prop and land scape designer, Mitch Lewis, isn’t practising his trade when he is re-arranging the turf at scrum time!
“It can be pretty exhausting when the boss asks me shovel a tonne of mulch and then I have training in the evening,” explained Mitch. ‘But I guess it keeps you active and fit!”
He won club’s best player in 2014 – his first season at Manly.
“I was born in Manly but lived away from Sydney for many years,” said Mitch. He played rugby for Easts in Canberra for four seasons before moving back to Manly. “I started in second grade but an injury to Jimmy Gentle in the first game meant I was in first grade for the rest of the season.”
In 2015, Mitch mainly played second grade but was called on come finals time and started the last three games. ‘I love the challenge of the higher level game.”
“This season, with all the changes, it has taken a bit of time to get the front row working well,” continued Mitch. “But we are starting to dominate again and hopefully win that good ball for the backs to score.”
Ladies day is one of the highlights at Manly Oval during the Shute Shield season. Tickets are sold out and no doubt it will be a fun afternoon. Remember to get to the player auction in the bowlo afterwards!
Also there will be ladies sevens games after first grade – so an actioned pack afternoon as well.
After losing all four grades last weekend against Easts, the players won’t be thinking of all the frivolity on the side line. Norths will be a tough proposition and have the best defensive record in the comp. The MMMs 1st Grade team is lying 6th on the table and needs to get some winning momentum to ensure all’s good at the pointy end of the season.
“Yeah we were devastated last weekend,” said MMM loose head prop Mitch Lewis. “We just have to pick ourselves up and move on.
“We’ve upped the intensity at training and had some positive sessions. We have to improve the quality of our play.”
A number of injuries have forced changes this weekend. Scott Bradley comes in at no 9 replacing injured Tim Donlan. “He has lots of energy and likes to talk on the field which is good,” said Mitch about Scott, an ex Rat player.
Flanker Harry Bergelin is out which has led to a pack re-shuffle, John Baranyi comes in at prop. “He won four tight heads last weekend and played really well,” added Mitch. Hayden Stringer moves to lock. He is a versatile player and combine well with Ryan Melrose, playing his 200th game for the MMMs. Congratulations!
In other news, MMMs first grade coach, Damien “Turtle” Cummins, has been selected coach of the North Harbour Rays.
“There was no panic after half time when Easts scored a try,” said Mitch about last weekend’s game where the MMMs surrender a big first half lead. “But we gave away some silly penalties. We’ve got to find a way to close out those tight games.
“It is a tough call for the coaches to make in sending replacements on. But everyone does their best and more often than not fresh legs help,” Mitch continued.
By Adam Lucius
What: Shute Shield round 10
Who: Eastern Suburbs v Manly
Where: Woollahra Oval
Result: Easts 24-22
Manly are where on the table: Sixth (32 points)
80 minutes in 80 seconds: We always have tight ones at Woollahra and this one would prove no different. The first 24 minutes were scoreless, given us an indication of what was ahead. Manly finally broke the deadlock via an unconverted try to Junior Palau. Five minutes later Sam Lane put in a well-judged crossfield kick for Richard Hooper to reel in and step his way over. At 12-0 the Lovedale Lager was tasting just that touch sweeter from the Woollahra clubhouse taps. Easts opened the second half with a try but we came again through Lane's left boot to make it 15-5 via a penalty goal. When Dennis Pili-Gaitau came back at the angle to cross next to the posts following a scrum win, the Marlins were on their way to a 22-5 advantage with 20 left. It was the visitors' game to lose from here. Sadly, they did. Benefitting from a couple of dubious decisions, the Beasties crossed for three tries in the final 18 minutes to steal the result. Their last try came with less than two minutes left, the conversion kicked with just 26 seconds left on the clock. Gut wrenching.
Where it was lost: It would be easy to say this one was lost in the final two minutes but that's a touch too simplistic. Manly's problems started with about 20 to go when wrong options and some poor decision making crept in. We got away with it against the Wicks and the Rats, but not this time.
Marlins' best: Dennis Pili-Gaitau, John Barayni, Hayden Stringer
What they said: "We have to get better at closing games out. The good thing about footy is there's always next week and we have to learn from this." – No.8 Junior Palau
"Our game management needs to improve. Now we need to focus on going on a run of results at home." – Assistant coach Dan Brown
Oddspot: It's been a funny old draw this season and now we can get four home games in a row. See you down at the Village Green
Where to from here: It's back to Manly Oval to meet Northern Suburbs in the first of those four consecutive home games
After a huge day last weekend against the ol’foe Warringah Rats with all MMM grade teams winning, its been all about getting re-focused for expected big clashes with the Easts Beasts.
1st Grade is now lying 4th in the table and Easts are 6th, one point behind. Easts lost a close game to Randwick last weekend 34-31. They have had some tight games against the top end teams including a win over Souths. So no push overs.
The MMMs 2nd grade is second to Easts on the table. The top of the table clash will be huge.
“It has been coming together in 2nds and we have slowly been building,” said 2nd grade No7 Mitch Daniel.
Second grade squeezed home against the Rats. It was a tense, low scoring affair. The MMMs got up 6-3 against a side that appeared to have more possession and territory.
“It was a tight game, as they always are,” said Mitch.
“It has been good at training. We are good mates and enjoy our footy,” Mitch continued about preparations for Easts.
Sam Blanchet who has been playing blindside flanker in 2nds is returning to the UK after being concussed against the Rats. Unfortunately his season is over. He has been a good asset for the club making a number of appearances in 1st grade and showed some aggressive, direct running plus being tough in defence. Club stalwart Brad Meaney comes in at No 6.
“The front row has been a bit light but it was good when John Baranyi came on,” continued Mitch. Baranyi makes a start at prop in 2nds this weekend.
Third grade has also been looking strong and are 3rd on the table, one point ahead of Easts. Finally, fourths are 5th on the table and Easts top. All meaningful games across the grades.
Mitch Daniel played junior rugby at the Roos club with many players from his time there now playing grade footy at Manly. He went on to have 4 seasons in Colts before moving through the grades.
“It is great to be with your mates who you have grown up with. The club has a good culture,” open side flanker Mitch said about the Marlins. “There are always changes throughout the season with players getting injured and coming back. Sometimes players may not be happy but it is good that there is the competition for places. It is part of the dynamic.
“Second grade is a fit and mobile team. In the Manly tradition, we love to run the ball,” Mitch commented about the second grade team this year.
Mitch was a key player in second grade Grand Final win in 2014. “It would be good to do that again this season.”
“It was a special team last year,” Mitch said about the first grade team that narrowly lost the Grand Final. Mitch stepped into Kotoni Ale’s shoes after his injury in the Rats game last year and played well through the rest of the season. He is a mobile No7 with no compromise approach to the breakdown.
By Adam Lucius
What: Shute Shield round nine
Who: Manly v Warringah
Where: Manly Oval
Result: Manly 25-19
Manly are where on the table: Third (31 points)
80 minutes in 80 seconds: (Ex) Prime Ministers, Premiers, former Wallabies and Manly/Warringah old boys joined a crowd estimated at around 5-6000 at a packed Village Green to witness the 87th edition of the local derby. And just like it has been since day one, it was fierce and full of passion from the get-go. The Marlins were by far the better team in the first half, skipping out to a 22-5 halftime lead on the back of tries to Richie Hooper, Josh Turner and Adrian Hall. You sensed a strong start to the second half would put Manly on course for a comfortable win but there is no certainty when it comes to the local derby. The Rats scored within two minutes of the second half and kept coming. The Marlins' only points of the second half – a Sam Lane penalty – gave us some breathing space but Warringah would not go away. They scored back-to-back tries to draw to within six points, setting up a tense finish. The Rats won a scrum against the feed 10m out from the Manly with time up and then forced a penalty. But the Marlins held them out to kick-start a big night of celebrations at the bowlo. Phew!
Where it was won: Once again Manly's first half gave them a great foundation but the second half drop offs continue to give Turtle grey hairs. The Marlins dug deep in the last 10 to secure a dramatic win. Centre Dennis Pili-Gaitau was disallowed a legitimate try in the 47th minute. If it had been awarded, it would have kept the sweat count down at the end.
Marlins' best: Adrian Hall, Dennis Pili-Gaitau, Junior Palau, Mitch Lewis, Hayden Stringer, Ethan Uili.
What they said: "It was a good vibe. There was plenty of intensity but it was edge of the seat stuff there at the end. Our second half definitely needs improvement but it was good to get the win for this big crowd." – second-rower Adrian Hall
"The first half was great, really good, and they had no answer to us. But credit to them for making it close at the end. Anyway, we won and they didn't." – Coach Damien Cummins
"It was good to get back out there. There were a few emotions but I was more excited than nervous. It's good to get that run under my belt." – comeback king Kotoni Ale
Oddspot: There are some young Warringah supporters who have never seen their team win at Manly Oval. The Rats' last victory at the Village Green was way back in 2007. The overall record now stands at 50 wins to Manly against Warringah's 35 with two draws. Long may the local derby continue.
Where to from here: It's across the bridge to meet Eastern Suburbs at Woollahra Oval on Saturday
By Adam Lucius
Manly Oval will be the scene of a remarkable and emotional comeback on Saturday as former captain Kotoni Ale makes a shock return after 12 months out of the game.
The workaholic No.7 returns to action at the same ground against the same opposition – Warringah - where on May 30 last year he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of the ankle as well as soft tissue damage.
No-one who was at the ground that day or watching on TV will forget the moment Ale buckled under a tackle and didn’t move for an hour before being taken off the field and straight to hospital.
But despite the damage, he never gave up hope of playing again as he endured a year of extensive rehab after his operation..
“It’s been a tough road but I’ve got a good network of people around me – friends, family, people at the club and work – that have helped me every step of the way,” he said.
“I think my partner would like me to re-think it (playing again) but I’ve still got that desire and hunger.
“I feel as though there is unfinished business. I want to lace up the boots again and get back out there.
“I am a little bit nervous but I’m also excited.
“I guess it’s a case of déjà vu. It’s the same opposition at the same ground 12 months on but there is no fear in my mind.”
It took a while for Ale to watch the incident on replay.
Asked his thoughts a year on, he said with a smile: “I should have passed the ball.
“It was just one of those freakish things that can happen on a football field.
“That’s all in the past now. The ankle feels really good. I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Coach Damien Cummins is yet to decide whether Ale will start the game or come off the bench.
Turtle is just delighted to see his former skipper back in action.
He said: “It’s a great effort to come back from such an injury.
“Some people said Kotoni would never play again but he was determined to get back. He’s done all the rehab and ticked all the boxes.
“It’s a massive lift for us. Kotoni is a next level player and a great leader.”
By Adam Lucius
What: Shute Shield round eight
Who: Manly v West Harbour
Where: Manly Oval
Result: Manly 29-19
Manly are where on the table: Fifth (27 points)
80 minutes in 80 seconds: Manly appeared to be in control of this one from the moment Junior Palau crashed his big frame over the line just three minutes in. In-form centre Dennis Pili-Gaitau doubled the advantage midway through the half with a brilliant solo effort following a smart switch of play from Tim Donlan to Tom Chesters from a scrum win. When Chesters finished off a raid that swept from the tennis courts to the eastern hill, Manly were comfortable at 19-0. Then a funny thing happened. Wests scored after the halftime bell to get a sniff and some real belief. Donlan helped restore normal transmission, picking up a loose ball and putting in a clever kick that bounced perfectly in one of Manly Oval's craters for Chesters to collect his double after the break. At 26-7, the Nomads were again going down nicely. But slowly things deteriorated. Wests fought back as Donlan headed for his second sin bin stint in as many weeks. The Pirates got to within seven with nine to go before a late Nick Holton penalty settled nerves.
Where it was won: The first 39 minutes set it up. It was pretty ordinary after that.
Marlins' best: Donlan was busy, Chesters collected a double and Pili-Gaitau was brilliant at times. Hats off to Palau and tight head prop Mitch Lewis.
What they said: "It was a pretty average game. It was ugly. It didn’t function that well. We've come off two big weeks against Randwick and Eastwood so maybe there was a bit of a letdown. We'll need to be a lot better next week." – coach Damien Cummins
"It was a bit tighter than we wanted it to be. We didn't play as well as we could have but we had a few guys playing out of position and were missing Laney (Sam Lane). We'll be better next week." – breakaway Harry Bergelin
Oddspot: This is the most intriguing Shute Shield for years. Who would have thought Parramatta would beat Eastwood on Saturday at the same time Warringah was doing a job on Randwick? Not us. Just five points separate leaders Randwick from the seventh-placed Rats.
Where to from here: It's Christmas Day for local rugby followers, with the Rats journeying down Pittwater Road to the Village Green for the big local derby. Do you think it's worth mentioning that they haven't beaten us at Manly Oval since 2007?
Centre and 5/8th (this weekend against Wests), Nick Holton joined the Marlins this season after being approached by his old mate, Sam Lane, who had played rugby and shared digs with him in Cape Town.
"Yeah, I was in Hong Kong on a club pro type contract where you play, coach and be part of the outreach into the community,” explained Nick. “Hong Kong would like to get into the Rugby World Cup and is looking for players to stay and become naturalised. It is a great place and I had an awesome time.
“I wanted to continue my study and had already investigated doing a masters at ICMS (International College of Management) in Manly. I also have an uncle in Australia. Everything came together perfectly.”
Not only is ICMS a Marlins sponsor but also Premierstate where Nick works as an analyst.
“I still want to give rugby a good go and see what happens.”
“When I get a chance I like going to my uncle’s farm out near Goulburn. I come from a farming background and enjoy working down there. It is something I would like to do in the future.”
“We are prepared for a physical first 10 minutes,” said Nick Holton moving to no 10 from centre this weekend with Sam Lane out injured. “Wests have some ex league players who will be looking for the big shots. It is a contact sport and we have to engage them but we also have to be smart and play what’s in front of us.
Wests had a big win over Sydney Uni in Round 5 and whilst they lie 9th on the table to the Marlins 6th, they are a competitive team.
“There are quite a few new players in our team and so we don’t have the knowledge of Wests or even the Shute Shield come to that,” he continued. “There is not too much pre-conception and I think that is a real positive for us.”
“5/8th isn’t my preferred position and don’t see myself there long term this season. Sam, will be back soon. I hope I can add some leadership qualities and decision making to the game.”
Brit Sam Blanchet comes in at inside centre. “He is a straight runner. I understand that he was in the England 7s programme and so he has some pace and skills as a well,” said Nick. Sam and Dennis Pili-Gaitau should combine into a destructive, hard hitting pairing. “Yeah, we want to keep it simple and use these guys. If we can stay patient, we can then get it out wide to the speedsters (Hooper, Chesters and Turner).”
Harry Bergelin returns at blindside flanker having recovered from a hand injury. “I haven’t had the chance to play too much with him yet,” said Nick. “But it is good to have someone with his leadership and experience back in the team.”
Last gasp sinks MMMs
It fantastic to see three grades win against Eastwood at TG Milner last weekend. 3rd grade, stacked with a strong group of local club stalwarts, beat the unbeaten Woodies team 29-10.
The stage was set for the first Grade Grand Final re-match. It did not look good early on with the Woodies smashing the Marlins pack and terrorising the breakdown.
The MMMs got back into the game with two well taken tries and it was 20-7 at half time. Could this be the day to take all four grades at TG Milner?
“They played very well in the second half,” said Nick. “The key was our lack of discipline. Not only giving away so many penalties but also discipline in our decision making.”
The MMMs looked good in attack but lost the ball a number of times in the Woodies 22. In the last 15 minutes the Woodies gained the ascendency and scored two late tries to snatch the game 35-27.
“We had a pretty intense look at ourselves in the team meeting on Monday evening,” explained Nick. “Thankfully we played them early in the season. We have learned from this and will be better for it.”
By Adam Lucius
What: Shute Shield round seven
Who: Eastwood v Manly
Where: TG Millner Field
Result: Eastwood 35- 27
Manly are where on the table: Sixth (22 points)
80 minutes in 80 seconds: The Woodies scored first to take a 7-0 lead after nine minutes but the rest of the half belonged to Manly. A hat-trick of tries to winger Tom Chesters – the second a 95m intercept – and a penalty helped the visitors out to a 20-7 halftime advantage. The Woods scored first after the interval to cut the lead to seven but the Marlins came again. Some superb work from hooker James Hilterbrand, who swooped on a loose ball and ran 15m before popping a pass to Josh Turner, eased Manly to a 27-14 lead. We wish we could end the story right here but unfortunately there is another 30 minutes to get through. We’ll get through it quickly to spare the pain. Eastwood scored the next 21 points to grab all five points, leaving us with one four-try bonus point.
Where it was lost: There is no doubting the sin-binning of halfback Tim Donlan with 12 minutes left had a major impact on the game. The Woods scored a try to go ahead in his absence. But coach Damien Cummins wasn't about to cop that as an excuse. He was filthy that his team let a golden opportunity slip...as you'll see from his comments below.
Marlins' best: Tom Chesters, Nick Holton, James Hilterbrand, Adrian Hall
What they said: "It sucks when the game is like that and you've got to sit down (in the bin) and can't help your team out. We can't fault our effort and passion but our discipline and execution hasn’t been good. We know we can do it and we've just got to show it. It will be good to get back home over the next few weeks." – Tim Donlan
"It’s just an inability to be able to close a game out because people are doing what they want to do, not what’s best for the team." – Cummins
Oddspot: We've been to Penrith, Forshaw, Millner, Chatswood and Coogee over the first seven weeks – so now it's a case of home sweet home for the next two months. The Marlins play six of their next seven games at Manly Oval. See you there.
Where to from here: First Uber off the rank is West Harbour at Manly Oval on Saturday
Adrian moved from Perth to join the Marlins this season. He has had big shoes to fill, both literally and physically, moving into lock where we had Ed Gower and Greg Petersen in preceding seasons.
“I have really enjoyed playing with the Marlins. In games like against Uni you have to step up and the games are fast and physical,” explained Adrian. “Obviously the result is disappointing but I enjoyed the challenge.”
“I really enjoy the club atmosphere. It seems that everyone pulls together across all grades and colts and so it more like one club than I’ve been involved in before,” he continued. “Everyone is proud of the club and the colours. Everyone is dedicated to performing well.”
Adrian was born in Rotorua NZ and then lived in Hamilton where he played his age group rugby with Fraser Tech. He also played for Waikato U20s. He then moved to Perth and played for the Cottesloe club and played in the Force A team a number of times.
“I was looking to move to Sydney and through contacts was introduced to Brian Melrose (Marlins Director of Coaching). I got here before the trial games and was made to feel welcome. I first stayed with the JTrain (club conditioning coach) and am now living with Reben Bijl and his family.” Rueben is a Marlins ex captain and prop.
“Hopefully we can continue to develop and get the wins like against Randwick, and be a contender come the end of the season,”
This is the first encounter between the first grade teams since the Grand Final last season. Both teams have had a patchy start with four wins and two losses a piece. The Woodies have gone down to both Randwick and a Super Rugby contingent free Uni.
“We have been preparing well this week for the game, working on the set piece and defence. We know we have been a bit lighter in the pack this year but we took a lot of positives out the game against Randwick last weekend,” said MMMs coach Damien Cummins.
“These few games will give us a good indication of where we are at. The focus is more on what we can do as a unit,” continues Damien about this week’s final re-match. “We need to stick to it like we did against Randwick for the full 80 minutes.”
No 8, Junior Palau, had a barnstorming game against Randwick picking up the 3 points from the players and coaches vote. He was a handful. The front row also performed well with the return of captain James “Cecil” Hilterbrand at hooker from ‘tahs duty plus props Mitch Lewis and new arrival Hayden Stringer. Check out the Manly Daily story here
“Hayden has added more weight to the pack and did a good job,” commented Damien. Not least of which was the final move of the match against Randwick where he took on two or three tacklers and managed to off load to Chris “Yazza” Yarrington for the winning try!
By Adam Lucius
What: Shute Shield round six
Who: Randwick v Manly
Where: Coogee Oval
Result: Manly 22-20
Manly are where on the table: Third (21 points)
80 minutes in 80 seconds: Can we have more than 80 seconds to discuss this one? President David Begg described it as one of Manly's finest wins of the past five years and who are we to argue (especially if we want another invite to the 1883 Club)? Manly may have been down on troops – 17 across the grades – but they brought plenty of intensity, enthusiasm and an excellent game plan to overcast Coogee. The Marlins were first on the board through Junior Palau, who powered his way over after a number of phases on the Wicks line. Sammy Lane added the extras and we were up 7-0. A Randwick penalty reduced the gap to four before Lane did it all himself, slicing through the defence and scoring under the posts. A commanding 14-3 lead was bridged just before the break when we gifted them a converted try. A Marlins penalty early in the second half made it 17-10 but then came trouble. The Galloping Greens levelled through a soft try and then went 20-17 up with just over a minute left courtesy of a drop goal. The game was gone, surely? Nup. Manly centre Nick Holston pilfered the ball from the kick-off and, a few phases later, prop Hayden Thompson-Stringer steamrolled to the line only to be cut down just short. No problem. He simply offered the ball up to Chris Yarrington and the winger did the rest, touching down for the match clincher before he was swamped by 14 teammates. Excited? Yep, just a little. It’s now five years since Randwick last beat Manly.
Where it was won: You could say the 81st minute but Manly really won this earlier. They were terrific from the get go against a Randwick side that had won five straight. The forward pack was rock solid and the backs slick and enterprising. It would have been an injustice had the Marlins lost.
Marlins' best: Where do we start? The front row of Mitch Lewis, James Hilterbrand and Hayden Thompson-Stringer were outstanding, as was No.8 Junior Palau. Lane was all class and centre Dennis Pili-Gaitau his usual handful
What they said: "Whenever we come here we seem to grow another leg. We let them back in the game but showed a lot of character to pull through. It was great feeling to score the try." – Chris Yarrington
"Excellent. They showed a lot of character and commitment. We'll take a lot away from this." – coach Damien Cummins
Oddspot: Randwick fans gave it to the Manly camp when their side went ahead with less than a minute to go. The looks on their faces was priceless when Yazza scored to snatch the game from right under their noses. It's what makes days like this so special
Where to from here: We meet our grand final nemesis Eastwood at TG Millner Field on Saturday
The Galloping Greens have been the form team in the Shute Shield with 5 wins from 5 including the scalps of Uni, albeit without their Super rugby contingent, and Eastwood.
“They are a young team and have a similar style of play to us,” commented Sam Lane, MMMs 5/8th about Randwick. “Having a lighter team this year has meant that we are playing more with the ball. I think it will be entertaining game.
“We’ve had a good but tough week at training. It included a full 80 minute simulated game on Tuesday evening. We worked on attack and defence, and it is slowly coming together,” continued Sam.
Hayden Stringer gets his first 1st grade run on. He is a big prop over from the Saracens in the UK and available to the MMMs for the season.
“It is good to get some big bodies into the pack. We’ve needed some extra weight as we haven’t been as physically dominant this year so far,” said Sam. “However, it has allowed us to change our style which is exciting.
The MMMs are struggling with injuries – some 17 players out across the grades. As usual this gives a chance for other players to come through. Look for Will Crocker in the second row and Tuni Palau at No 8.
The MMMs romped to a 79-5 win at the Village Green last weekend against Penrith. Whilst unfortunately this may appear to be the norm for Penrith, Sam pointed out that it felt different:
“Full credit to them they kept going the full eighty without dropping off. Fair play to them as well in that they didn’t get nasty and aim to hurt someone as has happened before.” Having ex Wallaby and Brumbies player, Jeremy Paul, at the helm has obviously changed things. It would be great see the club improve and remain an integral part of the Shute Shield experience.