Welcome Matt Curll, the 26th president of Manly Rugby Union Football Club.
Matt, a born and bred local, was a member of our 1997 Shute Shield-winning side and has remained a strong supporter of the club.
We sat down with him after his appointment to get his view on a range of rugby matters.
Marlins Fillets (MF): Welcome to the presidency. What encouraged you to take the job on?
Matt Curll (MC): I am very grateful to Manly Rugby for the great experiences, great friendships and great memories it’s given me. I was always grateful for the contribution that was put in by countless volunteers that enabled me to thrive as a rugby player and to win a grand final. I always knew that it was the right thing to do to give back.
I have a business background so I am able to help out with a bit of the management necessary to run what is in effect a $1million operation. The timing is never perfect but with my youngest child finishing school and Cameron Douglas stepping down after his great work, I realised it was time to take on the President’s role.
And after a quick chat with the family, who are all very supportive, here I am!
The other reason I took on the role is I believe that Chris Delooze is on the cusp of bringing us some – – or all – of a Club Championship, a Shute Shield and hopefully multi grade premierships. Chris is passionate, professional and dedicated and has the vision and plan to do this.
Equally the coaching team behind him is great as are the Colts coaches and my old teammate Ben Tuipulotu and his coaching team with the Mermaids, along with the brilliant Steve Berryman at 7s level.
This is a great opportunity for us all to get on board and enjoy the ride for the year and get behind the Marlins and Mermaids in all grades.
MF: What do you see as the club’s biggest challenges?
MC: The biggest challenge is funding the club – there are two parts to the club operations, rugby operations and business support operations, which I describe as follows:
A: With the rugby operations we field four grades, three colts teams and now a Mermaids first XV and multiple 7s teams. The basic infrastructure required from duty of care and competitive perspectives, ranging from some paid coaches, strength and conditioning, doctor, physios, mental health, mindset and practical player support (sourcing jobs, accommodation options), plus playing gear, tape etc etc is bloody expensive.
On top of that there is a salary cap of $225,000 and all clubs pretty much play to it – the coaching and salary cap costs are totally understandable and totally fair knowing as I do know first-hand the level of commitment that the players and coaches make as they prepare themselves to play each year.
They are very professional and provide lots of entertainment to us all at a fraction of their value – such is Club Rugby.
B: From an operations perspective there are also significant and absolutely necessary costs ranging from a fulltime general manager (SRU compulsory), finance assistance, social media (I pine for The Manly Daily), game day (security, staff etc) etc etc. I am probably going to say this a thousand times but it is a million-dollar community business.
The fundraising opportunities are there. The biggest challenge therefore is for us to rally up the energy and the initiatives to engage with our great Manly community – from sponsors to local businesses, ex-players and families, current players and families, our juniors and their families and the Manly community generally.
This leads into the second challenge which is really an opportunity. Chris and I and the board need to articulate our vision (that is simple we want Club Champs, Shute Shield and all the other Men’s and Women’s trophies) and more practically, what we are trying to achieve in terms of engagement with our great Manly Rugby community and local village generally.
Ultimately, I want all the community to appreciate the great entertainment all our teams put on and to have great experiences and memories and friendships from being a member and coming down to Manly Oval and the various events this year – just like the players get from playing rugby at Manly.
MF: Is there anything specific you can unveil?
MC: One of the things we are doing is developing project teams to help and drive various challenges/projects, ranging from sponsorship, memberships initiatives, match day set up and hospitality, social media, driving key events – golf day, annual lunch, different game day initiatives, engaging with key communities like our juniors/development of an academy, Red & Blue Crew, local chamber of commerce etc etc.
More information will be provided as we go along but all I can say is please put your hand up and help. We need everyone putting their hand up where they can. Please don’t wait for a phone call. If you can help, please reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
MF: It’s been 26 years since we last won the Shute Shield. What do we have to do to end that drought?
MC: We have been building a great rugby program over a number of years. I think that program is now bearing fruit under Chris Delooze’s leadership. I will let him explain more but we have a One Club, One Village mantra – ‘club and team first’ attitude – which is going to be reflected this year in that all our grades, colts and Mermaids are training together in the off season and following the same rugby program and philosophy.
It is a totally inclusive and coordinated program and it is going to drive high performance and consistency throughout all our teams.
This approach is going to place us in great stead to win the minor premiership and to make the semis with all teams. We are also going to have fun and create a great team culture in all this.
We are going to try and develop each player to be the best player and person they can be – it is important to remember these things work hand in hand. These are the goals.
In terms of winning the Shute Shield, as you know we have been going out the back door each year in the semis and it has been going on for far too long. The reasons for this in my view are two-fold – making sure we have the calibre of player who is able to develop during the course of this year to win the big back-end games for us – we definitely have the team to do that this year.
The second is having the team mindset and individual mindset to win a grand final. Chris will expand on this but he has recently spent some time with the Penrith Panthers. Ivan Cleary has been kind enough to show Chris from inside the tent how to create a grand final-winning mindset and culture.
You will see lots of references to #manly24mindset this year and that reflects the club’s plan developed directly off the back of the ideas that Chris has picked up at the Panthers – more on this soon….
MF: How do you view our women’s program?
MC: With excitement and high expectations. Ben Tuipulotu the head coach is highly regarded in women’s rugby circles. His appointment is a real coup for the club. Benny is a former Manly player and it is great to see him come home. He is assembling a strong squad of Jack Scott Cup fifteens players and the skill set of the players is amazing.
We have a balanced squad with depth and while it is our first year, we are turning up to compete and make a mark; we are not here to make up the numbers.
MF: Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh has talked a lot about re-engaging with the clubs. Do you think this will happen?
MC: Well, as I limped back to Paris from Lyon on the train after Australia’s miserable loss to Wales fortuitously, I realised I was sitting behind Phil Waugh.
We got chatting and he said he would engage so I am holding him to that. As to where we get, time will tell. I certainly have a view on all this as do we all.
MF: What’s your thoughts on the current state of club rugby?
MC: I think the product of Club Rugby is in great shape, although the woes of the Wallabies do not help, both from a financial and brand perspective.
But Club Rugby is its own brand of exciting community-based football and what you get from Club Rugby is week to week exciting tribal rugby.
As I said the only real challenge is to fund it. I am confident if we can communicate our brand effectively to the community, the community will get on board and support us – because we deliver such great experiences and memories down at Manly Oval.
MF: Are there likely to be changes to the match day experience at Manly Oval?
MC: Yes, yes, yes. I have discussed this with you (Fillets) and I’m not taking away from the role of Manly Boom Boom, but I would love for us to have a post-game crowd-sing-along-song like the AFL and NRL teams have.
You have suggested David Bowie’s Heroes, which is a good one. I think we need to have a competition to select a sing along club song!
We are looking at initiatives on a number of fronts. Better experiences for our sponsors, a rebranded premium supporter product – I would love to see a few more husband and wife/boyfriend-girlfriend groups of friends outings this year (which is not inconsistent with a beer with a few mates).
I have heard some female feedback on refreshments offered and game day experience generally and I want to broaden our brand appeal. In addition, I am looking at engaging with the local chamber and hopefully having some more activations down at Manly Oval.
We want more of our juniors down at the oval more often and we will work on that. With the Mermaids coming on board that adds another exciting community dynamic and I am very hopeful of seeing them play on match day when scheduling permits.
Also, the Colts on Friday evenings has been immensely popular and we will be looking to build on that – as well as tapping into the younger friends and family of Colts, perhaps getting a few more people off the Manly ferry on the way home! Anyone with ideas please reach out to me on email@example.com
MF: What’s your message to Marlins/Mermaids fans?
MC: I am very excited about our rugby program and what we are continuing to build this year (building on recent years).
We have the greatest community organisation in the greatest village community and I am asking you all to get on board and help out – as Uncle Sam once said: “We need you”. In return our players will create great experiences, great memories and great friendships for you.
Finally, without The Manly Daily our supporters are our best promoters.
Every time you read Marlins Fillets, an Insta post, a Facebook post or a LinkedIn post forward it to a friend, get them to sign up, or, better still, forward it to all your friends!
🔴 🔵 Go the Mighty Mermaids & Marlins 🔴 🔵