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Josh Mann-Rea and Jordan Smiler head into the 2014 Super Rugby season as fulltime contract holders after both players earned promotions during the off-season.
2013 was the first time University of Canberra Brumbies fans had seen either player in action for the club with Smiler arriving via Waikato and the ITM Cup and Mann-Rea after a spell with the Waratahs.
Key contributors towards the UC Brumbies historic win over the British and Irish Lions last year, Smiler and Mann-Rea are among a select group of ACT players who can lay claim to international wins at Canberra Stadium.
Off the paddock both players have settled into life in Canberra nicely; Smiler getting married and expecting his first baby in December while Mann-Rea celebrated his second daughter just two months ago.
At 28 (Smiler) and 32 (Mann-Rea), both players boast plenty of years on the professional circuit and add rugby-wisdom to the UC Brumbies pack.
Mann-Rea said it was an exciting time to be involved with the UC Brumbies.
“Coming into this pre-season we know we have a three month block to get everything right for the year ahead,” Mann-Rea said.
“I’ve had a few pre-seasons over the years but this is my first on a fulltime contract and it presents me with a few different challenges.
“I’m spending the next three months to concentrate on areas I can improve in my own game which will eventually add to the way we play as a team.”
Like Mann-Rea, Smiler was keen to use the pre-season to get in the best possible condition for the start of 2014.
“It was a nice break over the off-season but all the boys have been keen to get back into it and take advantage of the next three months,” Smiler said.
“This time last year I was still battling some problems with my shoulder so it’ll be nice to get stuck in this year without any niggles.
“We are all aware of how important the next three months are in the context of the rest of the year. It’s been impressive to see the up-tempo attitude everyone is bringing to training, but I guess that’s what pre-season is all about.”