Four Pirates young guns are swapping the black and gold for the blue and red of Manly as they look to test the waters in the the state’s premier competition.
Logan Griffiths, Doughal O’Reilly, Bailey Wilson and Jack Purkiss will take the next step in their careers after being recruited to play for the Marlins this season.
O’Reilly, Wilson and Purkiss are all graduates of last year’s Pirates under-19s. Griffiths played with his school side Farrer in the under-19s competition but had a couple of games for Pirates in second grade.
Wilson also played a handful of second grade games while Purkiss was a regular starter in second grade and, along with O’Reilly, made his first grade debut.
“It was a great experience. It was eye opening to what that level of rugby is about. Now I want more of it,” O’Reilly said.
Last year was a bit of a breakout year for the backrower.
In July he donned the blue of NSW against the best schoolboy players in the country at the Australian Schools Rugby Championships.
Already tossing around the idea of going down to Sydney, the experience only served to fortify his drive to push himself and see how far he can go.
He had a few clubs circling for his signature but in the end went with Manly, swayed by the club’s connection with Pirates and the “idea of living near the beach”.
“It will definitely be a really big challenge,” O’Reilly said.
But it’s one he’s looking forward to.
Wilson and Purkiss have already suited up for their new club playing for the Marlins at the inaugural Newcastle Under-20s Sevens tournament late last year.
Wilson played for the 1’s side and Purkiss the 2’s.
Both finished runners-up – the 1’s in the Shield and the 2s in the Cup.
With a lot of the Sydney clubs fielding sides at the tournament, it gave them a bit of an insight into the standard they will be up against.
“I didn’t have any idea of how big a step up it would be until the weekend,” Purkiss said, Wilson chiming in that it was “a lot quicker”.
Adept at playing pretty well anywhere in the backline, Purkiss said he hadn’t really contemplated moving down to Sydney until a couple of his club-mates planted the idea.
“I had a couple of boys talk to me after the season. They said why don’t you try down in Sydney?,” he said.
“I thought I have the opportunity to have a crack and thought I’d take it.”
He also received an offer from Easts but opted to go with Manly.
Wilson was originally intending to play with Gordon but decided to join his team-mates at the Marlins instead.
After being hampered by injury and missing the entire 2016 and 2017 seasons, the inside centre is keen “to see how far I can go”.
For Griffiths Sydney was an avenue the front rower was interested in exploring.
After helping out the Eastwood under-17s at the state championships in 2017, the club had said to him that if he wanted to go down they would be happy to have him but after talking to Marlins colts coach Rob Gallacher he liked what they had to offer.
Gallacher came up to meet with the quartet after Pirates prop Andrew Collins got in touch with him about them.
Collins is one of several Pirates to have played for the Marlins and was keen to see the youngers have the same opportunity he enjoyed.
Pirates’ Marlins alumni includes Collins and brothers Sam and Tim, Damien Reti, Jake Douglas, Shaun Grieve, Cameron Pyne and Kerrod Binge.