“I was quite nervous returning,” said Kotoni Ale, No7 and MMMs captain about coming onto the field off the bench against the Rats after a year rehabilitating from an ankle injury sustained in the same game last season. “Each game I grow in confidence and am picking up the pace.
“I am just enjoying it and forget about the injury when I am stuck in the action.”
Kotoni has also taken on the captaincy again. “I am privileged and honoured to be captaining again. James (Hilterbrand) and Sam (Lane) have done a great job and we have a good leadership group.”
Captain Kotoni taking teh ball up - photo: Adam MacDonald
Kotoni came through St Augustine’s College and started playing grade at Manly in 2011, He is a powerful No 7, tough at the breakdown and in defence.
He keeps himself busy as a PE teacher at St Augustine’s and rugby coach of the Vikings. “It is a combined under 16 team from the Harlequins, Seaforth Raiders and Manly Roos clubs. They train before first grade on Thursday evenings and then play on Sundays,” he explained. “They are going well despite a not so good pre-season.”
“There are some good players and it would be great to see them come up through the Marlins ranks.”
Hopefully we will see some Kotonis coming through the ranks from this rugby nursery!
Languishing 8th on the table, the Marlin Army is starting to ask what’s happening? The story so far this season has been about having the upper hand only to let teams back in during the last ten or fifteen minutes. Uni, Eastwood, Easts, Norths (40-36 last weekend at Manly Oval) have all taken games off the MMMs when we’ve been in a leading position going into the last quarter.
“It is not panic stations,” said MMMs No 7 and captain, Kotoni Ale. “It is tight on the table with 6, 7 and 8 all on the same points and not far behind the top of the table. We are working hard for wins.
“We have been impacted by injuries and the arrival of new players and so we keep working hard on our combinations and structure.”
Kotoni was dismissive of the pack potentially not being fit enough but did acknowledge that defensive structures have not been good enough when needed most.
“Defence is about attitude and we need the attitude to be right,” explained Kotoni. Holes seem to appear on counter attack from kicks. “Yeah, we need to get the defensive line aligned and improve the link between forwards and backs.”
“We have been guilty of giving away crucial penalties and not using the ball when we’ve been in good positions. The positive though is that we have been playing some good footy. We just need to stop those periods where we seem to switch off,” continued Kotoni. When it works the team looks good, often racking up a good score early on. When this is delivered over the full 80 mins, the MMMs will be up there with the best teams in the comp.
“We took the loss (against Norths) hard both individually and as a team especially as it was a big day for the club with Ladies Day,” said Kotoni.
It looks like it will be stuff it up the jumper conditions with rain and wind predicted. “It will be a forward dominated game in wet weather. It will be tight but we have prepared well and the boys are looking for a big game.”
Easts will no doubt be looking for another four grade sweep from a few weeks ago but look out for the injured Marlin.
By Adam Lucius
What: Shute Shield round 11
Who: Manly v Northern Suburbs
Where: Manly Oval
Result: Norths 40-36
Manly are where on the table: Eighth (34 points)
80 minutes in 80 seconds: With Wham's Wake Me Up Before You Go Go blaring from the speakers at a very lively 80s-themed Ladies Day, the Marlins ran out looking to get things back on track. But perhaps distracted by the scenes on the eastern touchline, the hosts could not have started any worse. Norths jumped out to a 14-0 lead just as Huey Lewis & the News slipped into Power of Love. It was left to Sam Lane to hit the DeLorean, showcasing some neat footwork to spear over for over for two tries and tie it up at 14-all.
5/8th Sam Lane went over for two tries - photo: Adam MacDonald
Josh Turner gave us the lead for the first try with a smart try just after the break only for Norths to hit back immediately with a try from the re-start. Anyone got one of those angry face emojis to slip in here? Manly recovered from that to score back-to-back tries and ease away to a 33-21 advantage with 20 left. Norths scored again, we kicked a penalty and...stop us if you've heard this one before. The Marlins fell apart at the business end of the game, conceding two late tries and surrendering a 36-26 lead to go down by four. By now the DJ was playing, appropriately, It's a Mad World by Tears for Fears.
Where it was lost: There are a number of areas you could pinpoint but Manly's defence is nowhere near what it used to - or needs to - be.
Marlins' best: Best to ask Turtle. He didn’t want to talk and we don’t blame him
What they said: "It would have been nice to celebrate it with a win but unfortunately it's not the case. There are a few areas we need to improve on...a few bad decisions, errors, discipline, penalties in critical areas of the field. We need to win a few in a row now to get to the place we want to be." – second-rower Ryan Melrose after his 200th grade game for Manly.
Ryan Melrose on the rampage during his 200th game -photo: Adam MacDonald
Oddspot: When was the last time you saw Manly positioned outside the top six? A long time ago but that's where we currently find the Marlins. Fingers need to be extracted – pronto.
Where to from here: Eastern Suburbs visit Manly Oval on Saturday for what now looms as a must-win game.
Ladies day is one of the highlights at Manly Oval during the Shute Shield season. Tickets are sold out and no doubt it will be a fun afternoon. Remember to get to the player auction in the bowlo afterwards!
Also there will be ladies sevens games after first grade – so an actioned pack afternoon as well.
After losing all four grades last weekend against Easts, the players won’t be thinking of all the frivolity on the side line. Norths will be a tough proposition and have the best defensive record in the comp. The MMMs 1st Grade team is lying 6th on the table and needs to get some winning momentum to ensure all’s good at the pointy end of the season.
“Yeah we were devastated last weekend,” said MMM loose head prop Mitch Lewis. “We just have to pick ourselves up and move on.
“We’ve upped the intensity at training and had some positive sessions. We have to improve the quality of our play.”
A number of injuries have forced changes this weekend. Scott Bradley comes in at no 9 replacing injured Tim Donlan. “He has lots of energy and likes to talk on the field which is good,” said Mitch about Scott, an ex Rat player.
Flanker Harry Bergelin is out which has led to a pack re-shuffle, John Baranyi comes in at prop. “He won four tight heads last weekend and played really well,” added Mitch. Hayden Stringer moves to lock. He is a versatile player and combine well with Ryan Melrose, playing his 200th game for the MMMs. Congratulations!
In other news, MMMs first grade coach, Damien “Turtle” Cummins, has been selected coach of the North Harbour Rays.
“There was no panic after half time when Easts scored a try,” said Mitch about last weekend’s game where the MMMs surrender a big first half lead. “But we gave away some silly penalties. We’ve got to find a way to close out those tight games.
“It is a tough call for the coaches to make in sending replacements on. But everyone does their best and more often than not fresh legs help,” Mitch continued.