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Manz's perseverance pays off with Grand Final spot

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It was only 18 months ago that Tom Manz was told he wasn’t going to be part of the Tigers Academy.

At 16 years of age, there’s no harder thing to hear for a young rugby player pursuing his dream of one day playing in the famous red, white and green colours of Leicester.

Told he needed to work on both his size and skillset, Man put his head down and got to work.

While players he had grown up training and playing alongside, including school friends, ran out each weekend for Leicester and went through the U18 League season unbeaten on their way to Grand Final glory, Manz continued to refine his game.

Now, a year on, Manz is preparing to line-up at lock for Leicester in a second successive Grand Final when they take on Gloucester on Sunday (February 17) afternoon at Allianz Park after featuring in every fixture for the Tigers Academy during another unbeaten season.

“At the end of last season they told me I didn’t get in and that was hard, but I just kept working on my skills and size,” says Manz.

“I knew they would be watching me when I played for school, so I just told myself that every game I would put in a massive effort and keep making improvements.”

Watching ‘they’ were and Manz’s commitment to improving his game paid off as Tigers Academy coaches selected the Denstone College second rower to be part of the 2018/19 squad.

“I knew they would be watching me when I played for school, so I just told myself that every game I would put in a massive effort and keep making improvements.”

Now Manz walks the halls and trains on the same pitches that the likes of Ben Youngs, Dan Cole and Ellis Genge do, which he sums up in one word - amazing.

They’re all people you have looked up to growing up, so to walk past them and see them is amazing” he says.

“It’s amazing to feel that you’re a part of the same thing that they are.”

The young lock has spent the season partnering England U18s lock, and try-scorer in last year’s Academy Grand Final, George Martin in the second row for Tigers and says the support of his fellow forward has helped make it an easier debut season at the club.

“He’s really supportive,” Manz says when asked about partnering Martin.

“George is really helpful, in everything we do and has helped make it easier for me.”

Cameron Jordan, the young man who captained Tigers to last season’s Grand Final win in the shirt Manz has made his own this season and will wear on Sunday against Gloucester, is just over half way through his first season of senior rugby and has played for the Leicester first team during the 2018/19 campaign.

Manz is hopeful he will walk a similar path and be a part of the Tigers Development Squad next season, but also has his sights set on a place at University as well.

I want to be here and involved in the programme,” Manz says.

“But, if I’m not, there’s a lot of other options like University which I’d love to be doing as well”

As his short history in the game has shown, the impressive Manz is more than capable of finding his way to where he wants to be - even if it doesn’t work out the first time.