My Nan cried when she found out that I had been signed by Manly.

They were tears of joy.

I remember growing up at my grandparents place and always grouping around the living room TV with the rest of my family to watch Nan’s Sea Eagles play footy.

Of course, my Nan raised me to be a Sea Eagle; as a kid, I always wanted to play for Manly and would dream what it would be like to run out in the club colours that use to come across my grandparent’s TV screen.

They have always been my grandma’s team; I have a sneaky feeling she has always followed and cheered for her Silvertails even on those days I was playing against them as a Raider or Dragon!

So I can understand why she was so emotional when I was able to share with her where the next chapter of my NRL career would unfold.

It was a perfect alignment for me.

That did not make the decision to leave the Dragons any easier.

My discussions with the Dragons were very upfront; Manly made an approach and were willing to provide me with more financial and long-term security and unfortunately St George we’re not in a position to match the market offer.

And I fully respect their position. As they suggested to me, with so many young guys coming through the system, they also had to look towards the future.

So I sat down with my family and it was a very tough conversation to have but as I am nearing the end of my career, I wanted to make the best decision for my wife Amy and our three girls.

As exciting as the move was at the time, it was incredibly hard to depart the Dragons; they are a family club, and were amazing to my girls and I.

St. George will always remain a big part of me, and I will forever cherish the many memories and good times I forged with so many teammates, coaches and support staff during my time at the Dragons.

With that said, I’m now 100% locked in as an Eagle.

The boys have been amazing to me since I first walked into the doors of my new training grounds and the vibe around Manly has been very positive.

There is a lot of good young talent coming through, which is exciting for the club.

Everyone, right across the board is just so keen to rip in and take this team to new heights.

Personally, I’ve set myself little goals and work hard to get myself as strong and fit as I possibly can and just set myself up physically to be in the best shape that I can be.

And rightfully so, that last game against the Canterbury Bulldogs has really lit a fire under me.

As a player, you can hide or not talk about it, but I have always looked to use such experiences as motivation and fuel to only get better.

My view is you need to be upfront and honest and as a group we unfortunately struggled and were not able to mentally finish out that game.

I have no doubt the rest of my former teammates will also be using it as motivation to improve and get better.

It is the perfect example of why we need to do what we do out on the training paddock during the pre-season, and why we need to push ourselves so hard.

Now at Manly, with the list we currently have, I am looking forward to becoming more of a leader amongst the team.

As an older player, I find that I spend more and more time with the younger lads, sharing whatever I can following 11 years in the game.

Because pre-season can be a tough place for any youngster coming through the system.

I remember as an 18-year-old, how physically demanding that first summer was.

But as you grow and mature, you learn to appreciate how important diet is, how important your off-field habits are and want you need to be doing to get the best out of yourself.

I actually can’t recall feeling this good. My body is fresh, and I am super keen to make sure I finish off my career on the highest note possible.

And best of all, Nan and I are finally on the same team.

Joel is now taking bookings for his GRIT workshop – which can be personally tailored to cater for schools, corporate industry, sporting clubs and communities. If you want more information on the workshops, Joel can be reached via email at [email protected] 

Joel Thompson

Joel Thompson is an Australian rugby league footballer who currently plays for Manly in the NRL.

He plays primarily plays at second-row, and previously was contracted to the Canberra Raiders & St. George.

Joel is also an Indigenous All stars and NSW Country Origin representative.