Tunnicliffe: Why I came back
FOLLOWING the recent unrest at Rugby Lions, winger Simon Tunnicliffe was left in a tricky position.
For many weeks the 29-year-old hung on, waiting for news whether the Lions' ambitious dreams of gatecrashing English rugby's top table were about to pop.
His hand was forced and, it was time to find a new club to play his rugby in 2012/13.
After multiple try scoring seasons with Manor Park prior to his switch last summer, Simon has decided to return after talks with head coach Lee Maddison.
A number of local clubs, some many leagues higher than Park, were battling for "Toolie's" services, but he opted to head back to the Griff & Coton.
Here Simon (ST) speaks with club press officer Bobby Bridge (BB) to discuss his return.
BB: After many successful seasons at Park you spent a full season with Rugby Lions, how do you sum up your time there and how hard was it to walk away?
ST: It is very difficult to sum up my year with the Lions there were a lot of mixed emotions throughout the year. The intensity and level of training was unbelievable.
We were coached to a Premiership standard and therefore Premiership standards were expected of us on the training ground as well as match days.
There was such a high level of dedication needed that you could never switch off from rugby. Obviously we were all gutted when it came to an end but these things happen and as a group of players and coaching staff we did our job and stuck to our end of the bargain.
BB: Are you a better player for the experience?
ST: I have learnt a lot in my year there. Being coached by two of the country’s greatest players in Backy (Neil Back) and (Ben) Gollings was challenging but ultimately rewarding.
The players you rubbed shoulders with on match days and in training was phenomenal.
The squad was made up of Heineken Cup winners, England Sevens players and players with a lot of Premership experience.
It was a truly unique environment. Even some of the teams I played against were of such a high standard it would of been a pleasure to watch them let alone play against them.
One highlight was when I went to tackle Mulipola (Logovi'i Mulipola – 6’ 4”, 20 stone Leicester Tigers first team prop) in his trial game for Tigers development and I couldn’t get my arms round his legs to bring him down, needless to say he swated me off like a fly and ran a further 10 yards before my face got caught up in his boots and he fell over.
You could not come away from a year working with that level of quality of player and not learn things.
BB: What made you choose Park over higher level clubs?
ST: I chose manor for several reasons. I have been friends with Maddy (head coach Lee Maddison) for a long time and he explained his vision for the club and I liked it and I liked the challenge it would pose to me.
Seeing all the local business that are backing the club such as the Horseshoes, The Royal Oak, The Crew and Bates Timbers I could see that it was a club with a vision and now the backing that is needed or that vision to become a reality.
And finally, every time I picked up the paper Manor were in it and I could see their progress was good last year and I want that to continue this year.
BB: You have made a big commitment to the club by turning down such offers, what do you ask for in return from your fellow players and club as a whole?
ST: There were a lot of good offers on the table for me but ultimately I had to choose the one that was best for me personally. Having given up a lot of my time last season I wanted to go to a club that would not have such a heavy training load. Whilst Manor’s training load is not as heavy I will still be 100% committed to the club’s regime as Maddy expects every player to be.
BB: What are your aspirations and aims for the season ahead?
ST: There is only one aim this season. League domination and promotion.
BB: What does Manor Park mean to you?
ST: When I first came to Manor, the club was bustling with energy and was a formidable place to come and play, local sides did not enjoy the games but loved the banter.
That is what I want to bring back to the club. Front up on the pitch with hard hits and fast play! This will hopefully attract more sponsors and more people watching.
I want all the town to know who Manor Park are and I want the sidelines full every Saturday so that we can really drive the club forward and upward.