THE Tumut Bulls have been dealt a major blow ahead of the 2017 season with star playmaker Christino Manuolevao accepting an offer to play in Canberra after three seasons with the club.
The talented Manuolevao can play anywhere in the backline, and won the Bill Castle Medal as most outstanding player in 2015.
He looked to be in good touch in 2016 before an untimely ankle injury hampered his season.
There are also doubts surrounding another playmaker, goal-kicking Englishman Chris Bolton, who is currently back home, although the Bulls remains hopeful he will return.
With pre-season commencing at the end of the month, it would be a bitter blow for the club.
New Bulls first grade coach Morgan Grivas, who alongside his co-coach Brad Gorman has a difficult task ahead finding a replacement for Manuolevao, is confident they have the depth to do so.
“It will be a big hole to fill, he’s a class player and it will mean we play a little differently this year,” Grivas said.
“We’ve got a few guys that play in the centres and on the wing who will probably want to have a go in the halves, so we’ll see what we’ve got and what we can develop as we move through the pre-season,” he said.
On Bolton, Grivas admitted he was unsure what the future holds, for the Brumbies 7s representative.
“It would be great if Chris came back, he’s still undecided if he will make the trip back to Australia,” Grivas said.
“ We haven’t focused too heavily on finding new players, we’re looking to try and develop our local players. We have some younger players coming through the grades that we want to try and give some time to develop,” Grivas said.
Grivas and Gorman aren’t focused on bringing in new talent, and have been busy preparing for the 2017 SIRU season which kicks off in April.
“It’s been a busy period since we were appointed, working on our pre-season plan for when we begin training again on January 31 and just talking about our goals throughout the season.It’s always good to start getting the players back together again and begin working towards the new season.”