MANCHESTER, England _ Curtis Manning wants to be a doctor some day. Right now, he wants to help Canada win another world field lacrosse championship.
The 23-year-old defenceman from Surrey, B.C., is loving every minute of his first senior international experience.
“We’ve got a great group of guys,’’ he says. “You can see that there are so many great lacrosse players and natural leaders. It’s a pleasure to be a part of it.’’
He’s wearing No. 8.
Defensive co-ordinator Taylor Wray can’t say enough about the six-foot-three Manning’s work ethic and versatility.
“Curtis is a tenacious defender,’’ says Wray. “One thing you know every time you see Curtis play is that he’s going to be going 100 miles an hour and playing as hard as he can.
“When you’re athletic as he is with a combination of size and speed, he can do a little bit of everything. We’ll use him as a short-stick defender, a long-stick defender, he can run faceoff wings, and he can get the ball up the field in transition.
“The great thing about him is that you can use him all over the field and you know what you’re going to get whenever he’s out there.’’
Manning doesn’t see anything complicated about his role.
“I’ll go out there and give it an honest effort, work hard, try to shut guys down and get some loose balls and maybe generate a little transition,’’ he says. “I won’t be out there to light up goals or anything like that. I’ll just fill in where I’m needed.’’
Committing to the national team was an easy thing for him to do.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,’’ he says. “To play for your country is the highest honour you can have in sport.
“It’s a great chance to go out and play some high-calibre lacrosse with some great players.’’
Working with smart players is always a plus for a coach, which is why Wray loves working with Manning.
“From a coaching perspective, you can tell him things once and he understands the game and is able to put the things you ask him to do into practice right away,’’ says Wray. “The other thing that’s great is that he’ll ask questions if he doesn’t understand something.
“Because he’s as smart as he is, he wants to know what’s going on all the time. If there’s something he’s confused about he’ll come right up and ask you about it and get an answer right away.’’
Manning grew up in a lacrosse hotbed so began playing box lacrosse at an early age _ in his case 5. He took up the field version in his early teens.
“It’s a lot of fun to play,’’ he replies when asked what attracts him to the sport. “It’s really high-paced and physical.
“For me, a big part of it is the team aspect. There’s a lot of teamwork and camaraderie involved. That’s probably the most important reason why I play.’’
Manning is with the New Westminster Salmonbellies of the Western Lacrosse Association this summer. He also played defence for the National Lacrosse League’s Calgary Roughnecks last winter.
He is a Simon Fraser University kinesiology graduate and has been accepted into the University of British Columbia’s four-year medical program starting in September.
“It’s always interested me _ applications of human biology,’’ he explains.
He’ll become a doctor but is unsure in what field.
“It’s tough to say. I’ve done a lot of research into neuro but it’s kind of widely accepted that most people go in thinking one thing and change their mind so I’m kind of just going with an open mind and we’ll see what happens.’’
He loved his rookie season with the Roughnecks.
“That was high caliber with great players in front of big crowds. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of.’’
The ‘Bellies are looking for a third straight trip to the Mann Cup final. They lost to the Brampton Excelsiors the last two years. Canada teammates Dan Dawson, Phil Sanderson and brothers Pat and Brodie Merrill were on the ’09 Brampton team and Manning is happy is with them rather than against them for the two weeks in England.
Neil Stevens, Team Canada media contact