Redland’s Trent Manzone is the Round 6 nomination for the NAB NEAFL Rising Star Award (Northern Conference).


Trent Manzone still remembers a phone call from Sydney Swans Recruiting Manager Kinnear Beatson partway through season 2009. Almost two years on it still drives him to be the best player he can possibly be.

“It was just a call to say gidday, to tell me they were looking at me, and that if I kept doing the right things you never know what might happen,” Manzone recalls.

“I’ve always dreamed of playing AFL footy but just to get that contact from an AFL club gave me a bit of a boost, and reaffirmed to me just how much it means to me,” said the Redland Bombers small forward turned defender/midfielder.

Manzone, committed to doing everything he can to keep his AFL dream alive, has started the 2011 NEAFL season in good form and has been rewarded with the Round 6 nomination for the NAB NEAFL Rising Star Award (Northern Conference).

He was among a group of standout performers in Redland’s 104-point hammering of Broadbeach at Victoria Point, slotting nicely into the midfield after starting the year in the back half.

It’s all part of a journey for a young man whose name is generally mis-pronounced in football circles – it’s not Manzone, as it is spelled, but Manzoney with a ‘y’.

Football means so much to the 19-year-old former Gold Coast Suns hopeful that he dedicated his entire off-season to rectifying one significant obstacle to his AFL dream – a lack of size.

He worked tirelessly over summer and put on 9.5kg to his 182cm frame.

“I’ve always known if I am going to have any hope I had to get myself a lot bigger.

“ I only had a two-week break at the end of the season – I knew if I am going to get where I want to get I couldn’t afford to stop training. I did a fair bit of running early to get a base, knowing that I’d cut that down, and then I concentrated on the weights.

“I was in the gym three and four times a week, and I ate a lot of high carb food and drank a lot of protein shakes … anything that would help me put on weight.”

He now tips the scales at 81.5kg after finishing last season at 72kg and has found the benefits of the extra strength enormous in a season of positional change.

“I’ve never played in defence in my life so I was bit surprised when (Redland coach) Matty Francis came to me at the start of the season and told me he was going to use me in the back pocket,” he said.

“I was a bit hesitant at first but I’ve really enjoyed it. I like the fact that they want me to be a bit of a playmaker, and last week I got up into the midfield, too, which was good.”

Manzone, whose father Tony played senior football at Burnie in Tasmania, has been a real football journeyman.

Originally from Hobart, he moved with his family to Mackay in 2002 and then Caloundra in 2008.

He joined QAFL club Aspley to further his football aspirations in 2009, and, after playing the first seven games of the season with the Hornets, finally got his chance in the combined Australia Post Queensland Scorpions / Gold Coast TAC Cup campaign under Guy McKenna.

He slotted straight into the Queensland side for the first game of the NAB Australian U18 Championships and pretty much held it for the remainder of the year, playing a total of 14 games for the Scorpions/Gold Coast.

Living with Nathan Ablett at Palm Beach, he was a solid contributor and did enough to earn an invitation to the AFL State Screening session ahead of the NAB AFL National Draft.

But in the eyes of McKenna he was too small for AFL football. There was no spot for him in the Suns’ VFL plans for 2010.

“Hearing that was pretty shattering but he (McKenna) was pretty good about it. He just told me how it was. I knew what I had to do. I remember talking to my Dad – we talk footy all the time – and saying you never give up on your dream. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Last year Manzone joined Redland with former Suncoast Power teammate Ben Weightman and played 15 of a possible 18 games.

Again, he was a solid contributor, finishing second in the club in tackles, and impressing everyone with his high skill level on both sides of his body and his commitment and professionalism. But in his eyes it wasn’t good enough.

“I didn’t play as well as I hoped to be honest – I think I was still caught up in the whole Gold Coast thing and wanting to make amends. That’s why I made such a commitment to having a big pre-season and playing a lot better this year.”

With no game for the Queensland U21 side this year, Manzone has set his sights on a spot in the Queensland Open side that will play Western Australia in Perth in June.

“I set two goals this year – just to play good, consistent football for Redland, and maybe to have a crack at the State side. They are the short-term goals which I need to achieve if I’m going to reach my main goal of playing AFL,” he said.

Still living at Caloundra, he commutes three nights a week to Victoria Point with Weightman and fellow Bombers Josh Norman and Jed Turner.

“We leave about 4pm, arrive about 5.45pm, leave about 7.30-8pm and get home 9.30-9.45pm. It’s a lot of travel but we car pool and it’s not too bad. It’s a good club.”

But it’s not all football. He also works three nights a week at Bunnings from 4-9pm, and, hoping down the track to be a sports physiotherapist, he studies nursing at Sunshine Coast University in a bid to elevate his OP enough to switch to physio.

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