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Unsung Lawrence a late bloomer for Manly

Brenton Lawrence

This time last year Brenton Lawrence was wondering if he had a future in the NRL - now he's just one game away from playing in a grand final.
Unsung Lawrence a late bloomer for Manly
by AAP

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, Sept 22 AAP - This time last year Brenton Lawrence was wondering if he had a future in the NRL - now he's just one game away from playing in a grand final.

With the modern-day game dominated by young tattooed superstars who have graduated from the Holden Cup to first grade, the 29-year-old's story is an altogether different but refreshing read.

Picked up by Manly after his release by the Gold Coast, Lawrence has proved himself to be one of the best signings of 2013.

Averaging more than 106 metres and 29 tackles a game and one of the faster props in the game, he's been an uncompromising presence in a Sea Eagles side that meets South Sydney in Friday's preliminary final.

Born in Mackay, raised in South Australia where his father was stationed in the Air Force, Lawrence cut his teeth as a professional rugby league player at Canberra and considers himself a New South Welshman.

Legend has it as an 18-year-old he drove 14 hours for a trial with the Canberra and then got back straight back in his car to complete the 28-hour round-trip.

This dedication didn't go unnoticed by the Raiders who offered him a contract and his performances as a centre for the Green Machine's junior sides earned him a spot on the 2002 Australia schoolboys team that toured England.

However, that early promise was never fulfilled and he drifted into the Canberra local competition where he became captain-coach of the Woden Valley Rams before pitching up on the Gold Coast to play Queensland Cup for Burleigh Bears.

"After I played for Australian schoolboys in the centres I got moved into the front-row and it maybe took me a while to get used to that role," Lawrence told AAP.

"I was with the Raiders from 2002 and played under-18s under 20s and Premier League.

"It was a good time. I went to school with Mick Weyman at Erindale College and he's still a very close mate.

"But I never cracked first grade until a couple of years ago when I got really lucky and was given a chance by the Gold Coast and now here at Manly."

Lawrence's opportunity at the Titans came after he trained for free in the off-season before the 2011 campaign and broke into the team for the final nine games of a dismal year that ended with the wooden spoon.

That failure sparked a heavy recruitment drive bringing some big names to Skilled Park - ending Lawrence's hopes of firmly establishing himself at the club.

"I was in and out of first grade but they had a good roster with blokes like Nate Myles, Luke Bailey and Luke Douglas," he said.

"They're quality players who were always going to get a run over me who's come from nowhere.

"But that's fine, there is no hard feelings at all. I've come here to Manly and I am making the most of it.

"Sometimes you get a crack and sometimes you don't. I don't hold a grudge. I feel really blessed to be a part of it all here.

"And now we're just one game from the GF. It's worked out better than I could have ever imagined."

"But it's not the time to look back and reflect just yet."




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