The next generation of promising young players have started their development program as part of the very successful Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Pathways Academy.
Following a two year hiatus due to Covid, more than 40 players from the Under 15 and 16 age groups are undertaking a combination of field and gym sessions and off-field education in an eight week program, culminating in trial matches against other NRL clubs.
Sea Eagles Elite Pathways Manager Kristie Fulton said the Academy provides young squad members with a learning environment that goes beyond the rugby league field.
The players represent our club on and off the field, so we have an important role in educating and guiding them and it starts at this level.Kristie Fulton on Pathways Academy
“The program has a strong emphasis on off-field development through the delivery of relevant and practical life-skills based education.
“Ultimately, in partnership with our players’ families, we not only want to help our players improve their rugby league knowledge and skills, but also want to do our part in helping to produce respectful, community-minded and balanced young men. It goes beyond just being a skillful footy player as character and conduct matters.”
Over the next eight weeks, the players will be immersed in an education program that focuses on the importance of professional and personal standards, along with learning about best practice diet and nutrition, positive psychology and healthy mindset as well careers and the importance of lifelong learning.
Sea Eagles NRL Strength and Conditioning Coach, Andrew Berridge, kicked off the first of the series of education topics when presenting on High Performance, where he discussed the importance of timed technical upskilling in the gym as well as professional methods of player recovery and preparation for training and games.
"The Academy is the ideal first touch-point with our youngest group of players as it allows us to introduce good habits in performance and recovery, so they can begin to implement the basics into their training and understand the discipline and professionalism required to progress," Berridge said.
The squad also had the opportunity to hear from 19-year-old Manly player and Pathways graduate, Tolu Koula, who gave an insight into his journey into the NRL.
Koula spoke about balancing life with footy and how he stays disciplined and focused when there are so many distractions for young players.
“You just need to want it bad enough,’’ Koula told the players.
“It then becomes easier to ignore the distractions and stay on track.
“It’s important to have interests outside of the game too. I spend time with my friends and I know it’s probably not that good for me, but I do like playing video games to relax outside of footy."
Koula said he was fortunate to have experienced Manly winger Jorge Taufua act as a mentor for him.
"I’ve been fortunate to have Jorge guiding me through it all. He has helped me so much in adjusting to first grade,'' Koula said.
“Jorge sees himself in me when he was younger and I'm very grateful for his advice and support”.