Waddell's pre-game ritual pays tribute to late Dad

It is the pre-game ritual that helps Corey Waddell to focus on the task ahead.

"I have this photo on my phone of my Dad from his playing days that was taken from an old footy card,'' Corey said.

"It is very special to me. I just take a look at it and think of Dad."

The new Sea Eagles back-rower was just 15 when his father, Steve Waddell, a hardened first grader in the late 1990s, passed away from a heart attack at the age of 45.

Steve played 89 first grade games for Penrith and Illawarra between 1998-97.

"Dad always told me to just do my best and to be confident in my own game,'' Corey said.

"Looking at that photo of Dad seems to get me in the right frame of mind. I know if I play my natural game, then it is going to go a long way towards helping my team win."

Born and bred in Penrith, Corey came through the Panthers junior rep ranks from the Emu Plains Club. He played in Penrith's premiership-winning U20s team in 2015 and their 2017 Intrust NSW Cup premiership winning side.

A pectoral injury suffered in a trial match at the start of 2018 saw the hard-working forward miss half the season. With a wealth of back-rowers at Penrith, Waddell knew it was time for a change and he found it at Manly in the form of a two-year deal.

"It was really hard to leave Penrith after growing up there but coming to Manly has been really positive for me,'' Waddell said.

"I needed a fresh start and this is a good opportunity. I just want to put my best foot forward for the Sea Eagles in 2019."

Making the 'sea change' a little easier for Waddell was seeing the familiar face of Manly Assistant Coach, John Cartwright – a former team-mate and lifelong friend of Steve's. The families remain very close.

"I grew up with John's son, Jed, and he is one of my best mates. We played soccer together when we were younger and rugby league at Penrith together the last few years,'' Corey said.

"With John being a former international back-rower, his advice is invaluable for my game. I can also approach him about anything in my life so that helps."

Cartwright said the Sea Eagles were fortunate to have secured the services of 22-year-old Corey.

"I know for a fact that Penrith was very keen on keeping him and St George-Illawarra were very keen to get him,'' Cartwright said.

"He was in a queue of back-rowers at Penrith. I thought he would have played first grade this year if it wasn't for that pec injury.

"I believe Corey is certainly good enough to play first grade so hopefully he gets an opportunity here."