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Cullen in a happy place at Manly

Wayne Cousins

Cullen

Cameron Cullen might have been crowned the best player in the Intrust Super Premiership, but it is the culture at Manly that has seen him develop as a person.

Cullen arrived at Narrabeen last November searching for an opportunity under Manly Coach Trent Barrett after playing five NRL games at the Gold Coast Titans.

It was a move that saw the talented 24-year-old five-eighth/half and his partner leave family and friends behind.

“I think I have grown more as a person than anything else in the last 12 months. Coming down from the Gold Coast was a big move. I didn’t have any family down here except for an aunty. It was just basically me, my partner, and our daughter,’’ Cullen said.

“Not having that support base made it a little more difficult. But I can’t speak highly enough of Trent, our coaching staff, and the group of players.

“As a group, I have never been part of a better environment. They made it so comfortable and easy for me. They have created an environment where you thrive to be better and you really enjoy what you are doing. That’s what helped me the most this year…the environment we have here at Manly.

“I had hopped around a few clubs before I landed here at Manly and I have never been part of a place that is so big on family. Trent is big on family. It really is like a family away from your family when you come in here. It makes it so much easier, everyone enjoys everyone’s company, and we work hard for each other.

“It is not like that at every club. To have that here is a special thing.”

On Monday night, the NSWRL named Cullen as the best player in the Intrust Super Premiership. It was an incredible achievement considering he played just 16 games for the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in between five NRL games for Manly.

“I was really proud to get the award. I didn’t expect it especially as I missed a lot of games being 18th man for Manly. I was really stoked,’’ Cullen said.

“Personally, I feel like I’ve done my time now in that competition. I want to be a week in, week out first grader. That’s my next goal. I want to be starting in a first grade team and that is what I now have to knuckle down and work hard for.

“It is just a matter of getting the opportunity. It is timing, it is a bit of luck.

“I have got really good halves in front of me here at Manly in Blake Green and Daly Cherry-Evans. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because I have learnt so much from them this year and have loved being underneath them. It has been really good for my development as a half.

“For me, it is just about getting a plan and knowing where I am at. Just working hard until my opportunity comes.”

Barrett said Cullen was an NRL player with plenty to offer.

“He worked extremely hard this year ‘Cullo’ and he is an important part of the club,’’ Barrett said.

“Cameron is a bloke that everyone loves to have around. He has been a standout in the Intrust. Every time he has come up and played first grade, or been in the NRL squad, he has done everything we have asked of him.

“It is why Cameron is so important to us, just the person he is. We know he is a good player. He is one of the most popular players at the club and I’m really happy for him.

“He is still only young and has a fair bit of improvement in him but he is an NRL player. Another pre-season here in similar surroundings will be good for Cameron.”

 Manly Head of Football, Bob Fulton, was full of praise for Cullen.

“Cameron is a serious versatile player. He is not big in stature but he is big in heart. To win that award, when he hasn’t played as many games as a lot of other players in the Intrust competition, is a fine achievement,’’ Fulton said.

“He is a very enthusiastic player. He is a player that players like playing with. For a small bloke, he has a lot of presence about him.

“Winning that award is a great individual recognition of his contribution to Manly and to that competition.”