The Italian Job : BJ's RLWC Review

Our time in the UK may have only been four weeks, but preparation for this tournament started after the 2012 GF.


The first selection camp took place in Griffith and I started to see the Italian passion for playing in a World Cup. Fast forward to May 2013 and in cooperation with the head coach we'd already worked out our training and travel schedule for trial and pool matches.


Many meetings took place during the 2013 NRL season and provided a great chance for me to build relationships not only with the management staff, but also with our two captains; Anthony Minichello (C) and Cameron Ciraldo (VC). Both of whom played a strong role in building this team to where it is now.


Losing the 2013 NRL GF was extremely tough, however three days later I was in a World Cup camp having to refocus on preparing players and winning games. With a quick goodbye to the coaches and staff at Manly we were off to Manchester.


Now Italy doesn't have the budgets of Australia or New Zealand, so travelling economy class for 24hrs isn't all that fun, but the concern was for the players, who of handled themselves professionally and did all that was required by them both in the air and once we arrived in Loughborough.


Loughborough University is a world-class training facility (the equivalent of the AIS) and was our preparation venue for the trial match against England. The European players had now joined us and training was very thorough.


Trial games don't usually hold much meaning to me other than observing certain individuals in key roles or allowing players to have a bit of a blow-out.


If you didn't already know Italy beat England that night 15-14, which helped to shape a unique unity amongst the squad; "Una Familia" - One Family. On a side note, I have never been involved in a game with such heavy rain and wearing the orange shirt for this tour I was certainly out there to feel it.


After the game we headed straight to Leeds (our base for the WC), a welcomed relief as having been to Leeds previously (world club challenge 2012) I knew the area well and some of the locals. Standard jobs took place that evening, setting up meal plans and tweaking training programs. The squad was very fortunate in Leeds, having the CEO (Gary Hetherington) of Leeds Rhinos allow us to use their training venue.


Wales - 34-18(W)

Game One vs. Wales at Millennium Stadium was a great experience. I caught up with DCE briefly at our captains run as the Aussies were on right after us; it's always nice to see your Manly players doing well wherever they are in the world.


Apart from warming up on a field outside the stadium, a good 5min walk from the sheds, there were no significant obstacles to overcome and all players were accounted for the next morning at recovery.


Scotland - 30-30(D)

From the penthouse to the doghouse best describes the difference from Cardiff to Workington (our venue for game 2). The training week was smooth and with the boys settled into their fourth hotel in less than 18 days, things were looking good.


I won't discuss the game itself, as there are always areas you could have performed better in and thus changed the outcome, more importantly the facility for this international fixture.





To begin with the boys were playing on a 90m field, how this was ever sanctioned is ridiculous and in recent Manly words "there needs to be an investigation into it". Next the dressing rooms, smaller than the living room in my apartment. Having to strap and massage in the showers is not ideal and very unprofessional.


The point I lead too is the ability to keep the players focused on the task at hand and not get caught up in the shortcomings provided. It proved difficult as it really doesn't allow for ideal preparation, let alone regular routines for the players.


Whether this led to being down 14 nil straight up is debatable. A good fight back however provided Italy with a draw. Having experienced my rainiest game ever just two weeks prior, this was definitely now my coldest.


Tonga - 0-16(L)

A must win game for us to advance to the quarter finals. Early in the week I attend a civic reception with the team alongside NZ and spent time with Foz who would later captain his team once again. An extended closing act, had us both looking across the room at each other questioning if it was a stitch up (Fozza with a trademark smirk on his face).


A couple more Manly faces were present this week, speaking with Kitey and Jorge before the game, JT trying to convince me he was 18th man - yeah right and I can also tell you, Kitey is already missing his Manly teammates.


A two nil deficit at half time kept us in with a chance, just needing to convert some more opportunities. Quite simply though when things don't happen, sometimes they're just not going to happen; the unfortunate summary of this game. With that, we were knocked out of the World Cup.


The final word

I have been very fortunate to be a part of this team and a World Cup. I hope there are many more opportunities to work at international level. I have learnt many things on and off the field, probably most importantly the value of great off field organisation.


Taking nothing away from our wonderful volunteers on the Italian team who have been working on this tournament for over 2yrs, some 10yrs+, I really appreciate what Alex Ross (Head Trainer) and Steve Gigg (General Manger of Football) do even more now down at the Sea Eagles.


Lastly, I liked to thank Tooves for allowing me to go with team Italia and Carlo Napolitano (Italys Head Coach) for having me on his staff. Although, my final word goes to Donny Singe who introduced me to the right people and who has offered guidance and assistance when needed over the past year in this role.


Now it's time to rip into preseason, show the new boys how it's done at Manly, and gear up for NRL season 2014 - Go Manly!


Brendan Inkster -@BJinkster

MWSE High Performance & Rehabilitation Co-Ordinator