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Sydney Shield team soaring to new heights

The opportunity for some exciting young players to develop their game at a more established level is paying off for the exciting Manly Leagues team in this year's Sydney Shield.

A fourth tier men’s competition that feeds into the Ron Massey Cup for both emerging and senior players, the Sea Eagles sit sixth in their debut season in the Sydney Shield.

With the team having a bye in the Sydney Shield last weekend, Benjamin Keene-O'Keefe, Campbell Munn, Taulauniuotagaloa Mariota, and Jett Jackson were called into the Manly Jersey Flegg team to cover for five players who stepped up to the NSW Cup side.

Rather than being overawed, each of the Sydney Shield players turned in strong performances in the impressive 34-6 victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs, with Mariota and Jett Jackson crossing for tries.

It was a rise in class for Keene-O'Keefe, Munn, and Jett Jackson after playing SG Ball Cup for Manly earlier this season.

Manly Leagues Coach Anthony Watmough said he was extremely happy to see these young men deliver in the Jersey Flegg.

"I told them from the start that playing against men in the Sydney Shield and copping knocks from seasoned players will help them with the step up against young men,'' Watmough said.

"What they showed not only gives them confidence, but the entire Manly club as well as they can see what value the Sydney Shield team has added since  entering the competition this year.

Former premiership winning Manly forward Anthony Watmough is doing a fine job in his first season of coaching
Former premiership winning Manly forward Anthony Watmough is doing a fine job in his first season of coaching ©Bryden Sharp Photography

"I feel that from a club perspective, the Sydney Shield team has done its job in preparing young men to step up when required.

"The pace of the Jersey Flegg is quicker than the Sydney Shield. The Sydney Shield is more physical because you are playing against men who hit harder and wrestle more.

"I want the guys who experienced the pace of the Jersey Flegg to now bring that back with them to the Sydney Shield."

With four wins from 10 games to date, Watmough has done a remarkable job with the Manly Leagues team in his first season of coaching.

The platform was laid early with Watmough's men overcoming injuries and adversity to claim a historic season opening victory over Cabramatta away.

Two further wins came against then competition leaders St Marys (28-12) and Mounties (34-26), earning the team the tag of the 'giant killers' of the competition.

The Manly Leagues team ahead of their opening season win in the Sydney Shield
The Manly Leagues team ahead of their opening season win in the Sydney Shield ©Andrew Bateup Photography

"We seem to rise when everyone thinks that we have no chance,'' Watmough said.

"The other clubs know we have a good team. Our team is only going to get better with every game.

"In terms of where we are at, these guys are still only just learning to be the best team-mate they can be and doing the little things right that people don't see outside of our group.

"It's about being there for your team-mate when things are tough and protecting one another. I believe we have found that little part of us.

"What I've learnt from the team is that they will outwork anyone in front of us.

"Once we get the little things right in our game, we will be very hard to stop."

The Sea Eagles have a chance to move further up the ladder when they take on the ninth-placed Glebe Dirty Reds at 4 Pines Park, Brookvale, on Saturday, June 29. Kick-off 12.30pm.





Acknowledgement of Country

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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