LEARNING FROM BENNETT
I was blown away when Ivan Cleary gave me my first-grade debut in round 25 of the 2017 season.
I wasn’t expecting it. I’d been playing NSW Cup and we’d had a tough year. I was still training fulltime and, on the Tuesday before the game, Ivan pulled me aside and said, ‘Look, I’ve got a job for you this weekend if you’re up for it’.
I remember, after Ivan told me, I rang my old man and Curtis and they were stoked for me.
Dad kept it simple. He said, ‘Make the most of the week, take it all in and go out there and do your job’. Curtis said, ‘It’s a great opportunity, don’t take it for granted’. Mum was over the moon.
The week leading up to the game was unbelievable. I was floating. It was a fantastic experience for me personally, but it was even better to see my family so proud of me. Curtis couldn’t be there because he was playing out of town, but I knew he was backing me all along.
I came off the bench against the Cowboys at Campbelltown. We didn’t win, but you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face just for the experience of running on in first grade.
I got on in the second half and played nearly 30 minutes. I remember Jason Taumalolo running at me and me trying to get my body in front of him somehow. We’d done video on him and all of a sudden he’s heading in my direction and I’m trying to remember what foot he stepped off.
I managed to get him down, but he’s that strong he still won the ruck and got a quick play-the-ball. All part of the learning process.
First grade is a big jump - not that much physically, but definitely the speed of the game compared to reserve grade. I was sucking in the big ones but I got a few runs and made more tackles than I thought I would.
The following week, we played the Warriors at Leichhardt, the same ground where I did the lap of honour with Dad almost 20 years earlier. I came off the bench again. We won. At the spiritual home! I’m determined to add to those two first-grade games this year.
I moved to Souths on a one-year contract. I’m 22 and I needed to get back into fulltime training for the sake of my career. The Rabbitohs offered me that opportunity. I grabbed it.
He might have one of the most famous surnames in Rugby League, but Bayley Sironen is looking to make a name for himself in Cardinal and Myrtle #GoRabbitohs ❤💚🐇
— South Sydney Rabbitohs 🐰 (@SSFCRABBITOHS) December 17, 2020
At the time of signing, I thought I’d be playing under Anthony Seibold. It ended up being Wayne Bennett. It’s amazing to be coached by someone who has achieved so much in the game, who has led so many great players, who has lifted so many trophies.
Dad said he would’ve loved to have been coached by him. That spoke volumes for me. Wayne has incredible knowledge. When he talks, you just learn.
He has a few sayings. ‘Living above the line’ is something he has drilled into us. It’s about maintaining high standards and being the best person and player you can be at all times.
Be accountable for your own actions. Be honest with yourself and others. Don’t try to come up with excuses when you make mistakes. Resolve to get better instead.
I asked him how I could improve my game and the thing he talked about was defence. He gave me tips to do with technique, positioning and attitude and we started working on that straightaway at training. He’s very clear and precise with what he tells you.
What has impressed me most is his relationship with the players. He honestly cares about us as people and wants to see each of us grow. He likes to know how you’re going personally, how your family is doing, that sort of thing.
I want to play in round one. I want to be in that starting side or, if not, then come off the bench. The competition for places is huge but I’m not scared of that. I’m comfortable playing on the left or right edge. I’ve trained on both sides, alongside different halves. Wherever they want me, I’m happy.
They’ve been moving guys around in different positions, seeing what combinations work best. Anything could happen. The bottom line is you’ve got to believe in yourself if you want to make the team. I do.
I believe in myself 100 per cent. If you don’t think like that, you shouldn’t be here.