When our Esteemed Editor Dan threw me a challenge to provide a blog on why so many people hate Manly, I picked it up with glee. For about five minutes I thought about why I disliked Manly so much, and honestly, I really couldn’t put my finger on it. They are like Leeds to me, that sense of entitlement, the arrogance born of a club that has known success.
The origins of the enmity towards the Sea Eagles is born in the 70’s and 80’s, with no salary cap back then, the rich bought champions and the poor survived on raffles, blooding juniors too early and cheap country imports.
Manly had the biggest chequebook in the ARL via a thriving leagues club (and its “pokies”) and superstar Bob Fulton’s close friendship with the late media mogul Kerry Packer. Prior to the 1980 season, they almost destroyed the Western Suburbs Magpies by signing second-rower Les Boyd, hooker Ray Brown and fullback or centre John Dorahy in one swoop. Grudge matches between the two clubs became known as the “Silvertails” versus “Fibros”. Fibro refers to basically prefabricated, cheap housing which abounds out West and compared to the uptown, up market Manly, most clubs couldn’t compete, especially with them being bankrolled by Australia’s richest man.
Then there’s the effect of Manly stalwart Ken Arthurson, who was the boss of the NSW Rugby League and ARL from 1983 until 1995 when the Super League war erupted. For more than a decade he was the most influential figure in the game.
Manly’s perceived favouritism by Arthurson was one of the reasons so many of the clubs were prepared to listen to Super League executives when the breakaway competition was being discussed and planned they all saw it as the chance to finally become as wealthy as the Sea Eagles.
Recently the figure of hate has been Bob “Bozo” Fulton, who, as a NSW Blues and Australia selector and powerbroker at Manly, always gets the blame when a Manly player is picked over a player from any other club, and to be fair, there’s been plenty of contentious selections over the years. Recently they accepted (under Bozo’s instruction) a massive sponsorship deal to rename their stadium “Lottoland” after the offshore betting company. Then the NSW government decided to make gambling on offshore lotteries illegal, and it looks like the club will suffer when the money inevitably falls away, cue the howls of laughter from the rest of the league, as the millionaires take a wrong turn.
Manly were also blamed for killing off the North Sydney Bears after a disastrous merger that lasted just two years. The “Northern Eagles (coached by future Hull FC coach Peter Sharp) was a marriage that was never going to work because of such a long history of rivalry between the two clubs. It also did nothing for Manly’s popularity as the battling Bears seemed to be everyone’s second team in those days because they were so hopeless.
Even today, as the Bears attempt to re-establish themselves on the Central Coast, Gold Coast, Perth or wherever they can, the rivalry still exists with Manly desperately trying to keep north of the Harbour Bridge as their own junior nursery. It served as an object lesson in avoiding mergers between clubs that were traditional rivals – and would probably be exactly what would’ve happened if the mooted Hull/Rovers merger had happened (although, we’d be Manly it that situation….).
Of course, more recently there’s been the issues with Brett Stewart, who was falsely accused of indecent assault, and banned by the NRL. Found innocent and restored to the Manly line-up, he led the charge to the Grand Final that year, and when they won both he and brother Glenn refused to shake the NRL CEO David Gallop’s hand, and any lip reader amongst the TV viewers could see exactly what they both thought of the NRL hierarchy too.
Daly Cherry-Evans is also a figure of hate around the NRL, after he reneged on a multi-million dollar contract with the Gold Coast Titans to stay on at Manly and earn a $10million over a 10 year contract, meaning that – in theory – the rest of the team would need to be assembled on a shoestring. They still seem to have enough money to compete though, despite rumours weekly that the NRL’s integrity unit swoop and charge them with rorting the cap. They also seemed to be at the epicentre of the recent match fixing allegations, but after a seismic explosion of press reports, all seems to be swept under the carpet now, triggering even more dislike and that “they got away with it again” rumbling. No wonder one of the biggest banners at Manly home games is one that proudly states “You know what? Manly hates you too!”
Then we come to this season, and the RL world is up in arms over the treatment of Jackson Hastings. It appears that a load of players broke club rules and curfew to go to a rather unsavoury establishment on the lash (oh ok, it was a strip club!) whereupon Hastings and captain Cherry-Evans got into a fist fight. Hastings was almost immediately shunted to Blacktown (the Manly feeder club) and informed the press that every single teammate refused to play with the talented youngster. The problem is, that’s complete crap, and a number of players, at first anonymously, and then quite openly told the press that they were happy to have him back in the fold. The Rugby League Gods have intervened by smiting down the club with an injury crisis of biblical proportions….. it’ll be fun to see if they swallow their pride and bring him back to first grade, especially as the general opinion is that Cherry Evans runs the dressing room not Trent Barrett.
I always say that I support two NRL clubs the Tigers, and whoever plays Manly. When they played Leeds in the 2012 World Club Championship my hope was that a jumbo jet crashed on the ground wiping them both out, as I couldn’t bring myself to support either of them. So yeah, I’m one of the Manly haters too, and I’m actually quite proud of that.
Until next time, Up the Cream, Gerremonsard and Come on you ‘Ull.
Rich – Twitter @pommyrich
This article first appeared in Issue 54. To view it, click here