Sironen steps out from his father's shadow

The irony of Curtis Sironen's move into the back row is that the more games he plays there, the more he resembles the man whose shadow he is trying to escape.

In the Sea Eagles' last start against the Titans in Round 11 Sironen charged back on the angle from his position on the right edge midway through the second half, swatting aside Gold Coast defenders before offloading to Jake Trbojevic who had to merely dive over beside the posts.

It was like going back in time 30 years and watching Paul Sironen destroy teams for the Balmain Tigers but Curtis has revealed that his move to Manly in the off-season was driven by a need to forge his own name.

‌Coming through as the son of a club legend can have as many drawbacks as it brings pats on the back but after a stop-start beginning to his NRL career at the Tigers the 23-year-old has played all 11 games so far this season for Manly, playing the entire 80 minutes in eight of them.

But when Manly coach Trent Barrett challenged him to define why playing for the Sea Eagles was important to him Sironen said he identified why it was time to stop living in his father's large shadow.

"That's been one of the biggest eye-openers for me, from the coaching staff and the senior boys, how strongly they push being proud of playing for Manly," Sironen said.

"They said to us, especially the ones that don't live in Manly, to find your inspiration as to why you want to play for Manly and we all sat down and said what we play for and what it means for us, use that as showing pride in Manly.

"For me I've obviously had a bit of a shadow cast over me at the Tiges, so just being my own man and trying to earn some respect.

"That's what I play for at the moment, just to be respected, to get respect off my peers and off the opposition.

"I'm proud to be at this club now and I don't want to go anywhere. I'm happy where I am."

 


If Sironen thought getting away from his father's influence was as simple as a change of jersey he had an immediate reminder when he arrived at the Sea Eagles and began working with assistant coach John Cartwright.

Cartwright and Paul Sironen both made their State of Origin debuts for New South Wales in Game One of the 1989 series and went on to play five matches for their state together as well as touring together with the Kangaroos on the 1990 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and the 1992 World Cup.

Cartwright has been tasked with helping Sironen junior evolve from a five-eighth in the junior grades into a first grade back-rower and he is adamant that the only way is up.

"Everything with him is up," Cartwright told NRL.com.

"He's had two years in the back row and this year he's had his ups and downs but he's finding a bit of consistency now.

"We've had some good results and some bad results but he's continuing to play the 80 minutes and that's been a really big thing for him.

"That's been a huge bonus for him this year is that we've trusted him and left him out there. There are some games where he's played better than others but games like [against the Titans] will do wonders for his confidence.

"He's going to have some ups and downs over the next couple of years but he's got all the skills of a halfback and he's as big as anyone in the game and he's got some speed and as we saw he can offload the ball.

"Something just clicks at a certain point and you think, they're no better than what I am. That's what's going to happen with 'Sirro'."

Now standing at 195 centimetres and weighing 104 kilograms it was obvious to most as Sironen dominated the junior grades that his sheer size would necessitate a move into the forward pack sooner rather than later.

Seventeen of his first 18 games in the NRL for the Wests Tigers were starting in the halves before he made his starting debut as a second-rower in Round 24, 2013, just five weeks after wearing the No.7 jersey against the Warriors.

He was used at five-eighth just twice more whilst at the Tigers and ahead of his 77th game in the top grade says he is still coming to terms with his permanent move into the pack.

"I was always a five-eighth coming through the grades and then all of a sudden I was playing back row in first grade and it's probably taken me three seasons to find that match fitness," he said.

"I'm at that point now where I know I can make an impact for the team and I want to get involved.

"Everyone used to tell me I was going to be a ball-playing back-rower, lock maybe, and it didn't really affect me too much.

"More so now it's about getting confidence. I am a back-rower now, I do still have those skills, I can offload the ball and my catch-pass is pretty good and for me it's just about using that to fit the team."