Dolphins captain Cameron Cullen is man desperate for a game of footy, after a serious knee injury forced him to miss the whole 2019 season and he only played one game before COVID-19 blew the full-time whistle on this year’s Intrust Super Cup.
And in an ominous sign for the Dolphins’ opponents in 2021, after serious training during the coronavirus shutdown including boxing, Cullen said he’s in great shape and raring to go.
“I’m probably the fittest I’ve been by a country mile for this pre-season,” he says.
“I’m not normally the fittest bloke getting around but once they called it off, I started boxing and I’m actually training for a fight at the Dolphins Leagues Club on October 24. I’m having my debut amateur fight.”
The Dolphins captain and halfback has even played a little league, but has had to think outside the box.
“I’ve gone back and played a couple of games in the local league for Brighton Roosters. When they made the decision to cancel Queensland Cup, I sat out for a few weeks but I just got itchy feet and just needed to play some rugby league, so I thought I’d go back down to the local competition,” Cullen says.
“It’s been fun, but I absolutely cannot wait to throw a Dolphins jersey on again.”
Instead of feeling robbed about what might have been this season, Cullen’s philosophical and knows it’s given him plenty of confidence as the side prepares for gruelling pre-season training.
“It’s funny the difference that one games makes. To come back from a serious knee injury and get to play that game … we won and we played really well. To get that game under my belt was pretty cool, but I would have liked a couple more,” he says.
The priority now is to re-sign the strong squad that offered so much promise at the start of this year.
“It was probably the best group I’d been involved in. I know we set some really good standards and the team we’d assembled was just phenomenal,” Cullen says.
“I’m really hoping we can pick up where we left off. Obviously with the addition of the Warriors’ boys, we’re going to put ourselves in a really strong position to try and take home the honours again.”
The club worked hard to keep the squad motivated during the COVID-19 shutdown, ramping up the work it was already doing with success coach Glenn Azar.
“He ran us through a 12-week lockdown program where he was giving us a lot of stuff about growth mindset and that type of thing,” Cullen explains.
“You’re not necessarily talking about going for a run, but you’re talking about setting yourself non-negotiables every week getting up early, reading a book and changing your mindset on things. I think that resulted in a lot of boys really pushing themselves and getting out of their comfort zones.”
A love of the game he’s been playing since he was six years old, hasn’t diminished but his priorities have changed after stints at the Broncos, Cowboys, Titans and winning Intrust Super Cup premierships with the Burleigh Bears and the Dolphins.
“I went right around Australia chasing it (the NRL dream). I’m so happy that I hung in there for so many years and got to achieve my goal of playing NRL, but to me winning the comp at Dolphins … I hold that in higher regard now,” he said.
“I want to do something special at the Dolphins and I want to play out my career here. I wouldn’t take a deal in the NRL somewhere else.
“If Dolphins do get to the NRL, and I’m playing good enough footy, it’s something I’d probably look at. When I do retire, and I’ve got a few good years left in me yet, I’d love to coach at this club.”
Cullen said playing with some of the game’s greats during his career and a natural desire to mentor young players were attributes he could bring to a future coaching role.
In the meantime, he’s looking forward to making the newly-completed Dolphin Stadium a fortress and winning the competition in 2021.
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