Corey Manicaros’ realisation that he wasn’t good enough to forge an NRL career hit him hard – dropping the boom on a dream conceived when he was 12 years old.
At the time, it was round four of the 2017 NRL season. Manicaros’ under-20 Titans were playing Townsville at home. The slightly built hooker was in the second year of a two-year deal with the club. He gave his all in the match, he said, just as he did throughout his Titans tenure.
The Titans were victorious but Manicaros was forlorn. “We won it by the skin of our teeth, luckily,” he said, “but I had some brain explosions and sh** errors that aren’t acceptable and aren’t to the high standard of the NRL.”
At age 19, he determined he was not NRL material: “I tried my hardest. I just knew deep down that I wasn’t going to be big enough, I wasn’t fast enough, I wasn’t skilful enough. That’s just how it is.”
Having close to a year to digest that sobering fact, the now 20-year-old finds himself in a good headspace. He is back living in Manilla with his father and mother, Mick and Sonia, and his elder brother, Dylan, who has an intimate knowledge of his brother’s elite league experience, having gone down a similar road at the Newcastle Knights.
Dylan, 22, spent two seasons with the Knights in 2014-15, before being cut without getting an under-20 run. His brother played more than 30 under-20 games.
Manicaros, a former North Tamworth premiership-winning player, has got a traineeship at the Boggabri coal mine, where his father and brother work. “I thought it was too good an opportunity to pass up,” he said.
He was not going to play this season but changed his mind after Dylan decided to sign with the Dungowan Cowboys in the revamped Group 4 first-grade competition. The last time they played together was in North Tamworth’s 2013 under-18 premiership-winning side.
He stopped enjoying the game at the Titans but gets the chance to embrace it again while playing with his big brother: “I wanted to come play with my brother and really have fun again – not have to worry about every aspect of the game, just go out there and throw the footy around.”
With the Manicaros brothers in Dungowan’s line-up, along with former Norths players Shaun Ferguson and Marshall Barker, Cowboys captain-coach Lochie Collins is quietly confident about the side’s chances this year after stepping up from the now-defunct Second Division.
Manicaros echoed that, only louder: “I reckon we’ll go close this year. I reckon we’ll go real close.”
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