Chances are, unless you’re a die-hard Roughnecks’ fan, you may not have noticed that Saturday night saw the return of veteran defender Curtis Manning. For the visiting Toronto Rock however, the 6’3”, 210-pound Manning was hard to miss. In his first game in 10 months, the big righty helped the Roughnecks to a 15-9 win.
“He’s a big body and very athletic and a very intelligent player,” praised head coach Curt Malawsky. “He eats up a lot of space out there and keeps guys off his body really well. It’s nice to put some size in the lineup. He’s been sorely missed.”
After Calgary’s season ended on May 13th of last year, Manning underwent surgery to repair a chronic lower body injury. Even with his injury, the dedicated Manning attended training camp on crutches. As one of six Roughnecks with 10 or more years in the NLL, Manning’s experience was no doubt an asset to the group of young Rigger defenders and made his return to the lineup all but seamless.
Manning looked like he hadn’t missed a beat as he directed traffic in front of Christian Del Bianco while picking up four loose balls throughout the game.
His hard-nosed play didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.
“It sucks to play against him, I’m not going to lie. My arms are thankful that he’s on my side now,” chuckled Rhys Duch.
Manning was drafted sixth overall by the Riggers in the 2008 Entry Draft after a standout junior career with the New Westminster Salmonbellies. Among a host of honours and awards, Manning was the recipient of the John Urban Award given to the top graduating player in the BCJALL.
Manning made an instant impact in his 2010 rookie season with the Roughnecks and was named to the All-Rookie team. During that same time, Manning played summer ball with the WLA’s Salmonbellies and continued to be recognized as a top defender. First Team All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year awards were added to his resume.
Manning currently lives and works in Calgary as a family doctor, so he kept busy during his time off the floor, but he’s glad to be back.
“It’s not so much fun watching these guys play and have all the fun so it’s great to get back and be able to help out and join them out there.” Manning said. “It was really good to be back.”