For those Manly Sea Eagles fans longing for another Glenn Stewart-style back-rower, look no further than Curtis Sironen.
One of Sironen’s goals next season is to become a ball-playing back-rower in the mode of the elder Stewart sibling, a man who terrorised edge defences for more than a decade.
The other is putting himself up for NSW selection, a feat Stewart achieved five times for the Blues.
‘’I’ve still got ambitions for rep football,’’ Sironen told NRL.com.
‘’I’ve been in the City team a couple of times. State of Origin is a goal. I still think I’m a little way away from the guys who are already playing there, but in my career that’s something I definitely do want to achieve.
‘’I’m working with Baz [coach Trent Barrett] on what I can do for Manly to get towards that. I want to work on being a leader now at Manly, not just the new guy.
‘’I want to play consistently every week as I want to be a long-time player at Manly.’’
Having begun his NRL career as a five-eighth at Wests Tigers in 2012, Sironen shifted to the back row before moving to Manly last season but has lost none of those instinctive skills. Being an edge player in the vein of Stewart, who seamlessly linked with the backline on Manly’s right edge, is very appealing.
“It’s whatever the team needs. But I think I am that sort of player that can have that second phase. I have an offload and if I get an early ball I can play a little footy as well,” he said.
“But it comes down to doing my job. Doing the tough stuff first. Then if there’s some footy there to be played you take your opportunities. I’m not afraid to go out there and kick the ball and back myself by picking my time. But I’ll do what Manly wants in their structure first.”
Sironen’s maiden season in maroon and white was hampered by a torn pectoral muscle in round 14. He made it back for the last two games of the season – round 26 against the Penrith Panthers and then the elimination final, against the same opponents – and still managed six tries, five line breaks and 25 tackle busts in 16 games.
“I’m a hundred per cent healthy now, touch wood. I had a good break and took care of the body. I was a bit smarter about how I spent my time away,” Sironen said of his post-season holiday.
“So I’m feeling really good. (Head trainer) Dan Ferris and his team have got me in the best physical shape I’ve ever been.
“Just running-wise I’m feeling bigger and stronger. The injury wasn’t a good thing obviously, but it taught me to be more professional and more specific in my rehab and training.”
He’ll need all of that and more to keep up with his fellow back-rowers.
“We’ve got a lot of depth with Frank Winterstein on the left edge and Shaun Lane and Lewis Brown,” Sironen said. “We’ve brought in Jack Gosiewski from Souths and he’s been impressing me with his training and work ethic.
“We’ve got a few guys from our under-20s side too, who won the comp, and they’re very enthusiastic and very big. They’re going to be good.
‘’So we’ve got a young squad mixed with the more senior guys who played in the World Cup (Marty Taupau, Addin Fonua-Blake, Api Koroisau, Jake Trbojevic, and Winterstein).”