Sipley finds plenty of hope at Sea Eagles

Whether it be three minutes in the NRL or applying his trade in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW competition, rugby league is all about pure enjoyment for Sea Eagles prop Toff Sipley.

The 24-year-old, who made his NRL debut for the Warriors in 2016, has six first grade games and 57 matches in the Intrust competition under his belt as he prepares for his second season at Manly.

Sipley played four matches for the Sea Eagles in 2018 but insists every match is special considering he thought his league career was over before it truly began in 2015 due to a knee injury.

"I was in my final season in the U20s at the Warriors and (coach) Stacey Jones called me up to his Intrust team. It came a week after I was picked in the Junior Kiwis squad,'' Sipley recalls.

"It was about eight minutes into the game against Newcastle and I got tackled awkwardly. I did my ACL, MCL and PCL. There are only four ligaments in your knee and I did three of them.

"I was out for 10 months and during that time, I missed footy so much. I made a promise to myself then that whenever I play rugby league again, I'm just going to enjoy it, no matter who I play for or what grade it is."

It is a philosophy that Sipley now carries with him during the gruelling slog of pre-season training to the weekly grind of the league season.

Sipley spent the first two months of 2018 playing for Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in the Intrust competition under Coach Steven Hales before getting his opportunity in May to make his club debut for Manly in the round 11 win over Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.

"When I first went back to Blacktown, it was disappointing because I felt I had done enough in the pre-season to put myself in the first grade frame, '' Sipley said.

"However 'Halesy' created a positive environment there and challenged me to become a leader of the team. He told me if I worked hard, the first grade opportunities would come.

"In the end, I managed to get four NRL games for Manly. That's four more than what I was getting at the Warriors.

"When I was at Blacktown, I thought about the knee injury and the time out of the game. I reminded myself that I am not entitled to anything and that the NRL doesn't owe me a thing.

"Even now if I miss a game through injury, it gets me down. It's just the type of person I am, I want to play week in, week out.

"After all, this is what I dreamt of as a kid growing up. To play NRL.

The adrenalin rush you get when you play in the NRL is just amazing.

Toff Sipley

"You feel it when you run out to warm up. You see the big lights and the excitement of the fans. You take a step back and say to yourself, 'I'm playing in the NRL now'.

"No matter how many minutes I play, it is just an awesome feeling. As a player, it is one of the best feelings and it is what we live for."

And as for those three minutes against the Storm, Sipley can't help but smile when he reflects on one of the fiercest matches of 2018.

"I literally had a front row seat to the game. Our forwards were going well and I just had to bide my time. When I did get on, I just tried to get as many carries and tackles as I could,'' he said.

"Beating Melbourne down there was such a good feeling especially when you consider the strong rivalry between the two clubs with the history they have from the grand finals.

"To get one over the Storm was a good feeling. It was one of those proud moments I felt here in my time at Manly so far.

"I know there are many more good moments to come for me and this club. The fact I'm here at a great club like Manly is something I don't take for granted."

As for 2019, Sipley is feeling refreshed and energetic under new Head Coach Des Hasler. It is his fourth NRL coach in the Kiwi's short career.

"The thing I like about Des, and it transcends onto the training paddock, is that at this stage you don't know who is in and who is out,'' Sipley said.

"He likes to keep the younger boys accountable. He is probably the only coach I've had who likes to get the younger fellas to take leadership roles and to talk up in video sessions and
not be scared. At the end of the day, if you get called up to first grade, you need to know the plays.

"I feel that with this playing group now that if you asked any player in any certain position, everyone is aware of the game plan and that's what you need.

"Des is getting the best out of everyone at training. One of his traits is that we are here to work, here to rip in, and here to do a job.

"We are all hoping for a bigger year. We owe it to our fans, our families, and mostly, to ourselves."