Taste of high-level footy whets James' appetite Andrew Prentice 13 June 2008 BOOM Sea Eagles junior James Cunningham took up rugby league three years ago after spotting an opportunity to get a day off school. In a remarkable turn of events, the Avalon Bulldogs junior lined up for the Blues under-18s in their 34-12 victory on Wednesday night at Suncorp Stadium. "It was insane, the atmosphere was unbelievable," he said when reflecting on the experience yesterday. "Even though we kicked off in the afternoon a few people were already inside and going berserk. "I didn't get as much time as I hoped coming off the bench but it gave me a taste of footy at the highest level and I loved it." The front-rower is a member of the Sea Eagles' Toyota Cup squad under coach David Penna. The 18-year-old was recruited by Manly after initially playing rugby at St Ives and Warringah as a breakaway. "I played rugby as a young bloke and always wanted to try my hand at league," Cunningham said. "When I heard about the schoolboy carnival I figured I should go and trial, I had nothing to lose. "I wasn't that sure of all the rules but I went all right." After watching Cunningham himself, Manly's Junior Development Manager Dave Warwick made it his business to get him in a maroon and white jersey. "Front-row is a specialist position these days and you could tell he had the hallmarks of a very good young player," Warwick said. "The best thing about him is that he is easy to coach and always listens. "He is developing nicely. "We threw him in the Harold Matthews to start with then picked him for SG Ball and more recently he has been with our Toyota Cup squad. "It wouldn't surprise me one bit to see him in first grade in the next few years."