Curtis Sironen looks back on his first season at the Sea Eagles with a sense of pride.
The talented back-rower joined Manly last November searching for a new opportunity after leaving the Wests Tigers, a club he played 65 grade matches for.
Sironen spoke to Manly Media Manager Wayne Cousins about his 16 games in the maroon and white, to how much he enjoyed his football again under Coach Trent Barrett.
Wayne: From day one ‘Siro’, you were determined to earn the respect of your new team-mates as you went about enjoying a fresh start at the Sea Eagles. How important was that to you?
Curtis: It was one of my biggest priorities…to just settle in and find my place in the group. It is a credit to the club the way it happened because I just felt comfortable so quickly. It was like being at the first day of school again. Everyone knows who you are, but they don’t really know who you are until they are around you every day. It was a fresh start. I could paint a new picture and become whoever I wanted to be. I was still myself and I love having a joke, and getting around the boys. The mixture of knowing when to be that larrikin and when to knuckle down and work hard is something I had to work on. I am really happy where I am now. I have made some great friends and I can’t wait to be at Manly for as long as possible.
Wayne: The close bond between the team was exceptional. You could see how much you all enjoyed each other’s company whether it be at training or travelling away?
Curtis: You need that sort of comaradie because it shows on the field. When times get tough, that guy who has been training next to you, you know he won’t let you down and you won’t let him down. This is not like a normal job where you come in and just go home. We invest a lot of time into each other and go out of our way. Everyone is really selfless and willing to help each other no matter what it is. It is something I really love about this place.
Wayne: Talking about friendships, you and Addin Fonua-Blake really enjoy each other’s company. You two are always laughing?
Curtis: Big ‘Ads’....we are like yin and yang. We just love joking. He is a great character and has really established himself. It is not just Addin though, it's everyone here at Manly. There are no little groups. You can be left at training with anyone and have a really good conversation, or just hang out with.
Wayne: What victories did you really enjoy in 2017?
Curtis: The first two weeks were pretty tough and no one gave us a hope in Townsville in round three against the Cowboys. It was a huge win not just for us, but for Trent (Barrett) and the coaching staff. We took a lot of confidence out of it and went on a decent little winning streak after that. Both of our golden point wins over Canberra were huge. Also, the Roosters game in round five was massive. The way we won it, it just gave our confidence a huge lift. We just stayed in there and found a way. For Brian Kelly to hit Dylan Walker with that pass in the 79th minute and for ‘Walkz’ to run away with it to score, it was just one of the most enjoyable wins for just how tough that match was. Each time we beat a fancied team like the Roosters, people would still write us off but we didn’t care what they said. We were just worried about ourselves and proving people wrong. It was disappointing the way the season finished because we beat everyone’s expectations except our own.
Wayne: There are so many positives the team can take from 2017 into next season though, Curtis?
Curtis: Exactly. We are all going to be a year older and will be able to build on these combinations. We can really hit the ground running in the pre-season. Everyone will work that much harder now as we set more goals. There are plenty of people who we want to prove wrong and that’s always going to be a strong motivator.
Wayne: Which of your new team-mates really impressed you?
Curtis. Definitely Jake Trbojevic. I have never played with anyone like him. Jake and Api Koroisau, I wouldn’t trade them for anyone. They turn up every week, they do all the hard stuff that no one else wants to do, and in the toughest moments of the game, they are always competing. Those two have been massive. When you run out there knowing they are next to you, you just feel that much more confident. It has been awesome playing with those two. They are just good people. That’s been a common theme, if you are not a good person, you can’t last. They have been a massive piece of the puzzle in building the culture here. Guys like them make you want to be at a club like Manly.
Wayne: Finally, how did you find playing under Trent Barrett who backed you from the beginning when you arrived last November?
Curtis: He is a legend. I have never had a coach like ‘Baz’. He is just relates to everyone and he is a smart coach. You want to play for someone like that because you can see how much it means to them. It just spurs you on. I would love to play under Trent for a long time because he makes you a good person as well as a good footballer.