Well I must say, it is pretty bitter sweet to be a Manly fan right now. On one hand all this talk of player rifts has the potential to spell the end of the clubs famous decade long finals streak in 2015 but on the other hand things couldn’t be going better on the field this year. Outright first place with left side attack that would give even the competitions best defensive centre nightmares. If you only watch the games and stayed away from the papers then things would be looking pretty good.
Now as Manly fans we are pretty used to reading articles that spell the end for this unique squad. 2009 it was the season launch incidents, 2011 a lack of recognised halves (how silly that seems now), 2012 the team didn’t stand a chance without Des and last year the squad was considered over the hill. Don’t forget all the boardroom dramas us fans have been forced to read about as well.
Despite all this the team is able to deliver on the field year after year, with 2014 being no exception.
This years problems stem from Glenn Stewart not being offered a contract beyond this year. As a fan it was disappointing that they couldn’t at least make him an offer but I have no insight on the clubs salary cap balancing act. While they may have been able to offer him something, there is no point doing so if the best they could offer would offend the club stalwart.
The matter intensified when Manly re-signed Jamie Buhrer and Jesse Sene-Lefao. The fact that other backrowers have been kept has reportedly upset Brett Stewart, Anthony Watmough and Steve Matai. I was ok with the clubs decision to do this as 1) Buhrer and Sene-Lefao would demand nowhere near the money of Stewart and 2) With youth on their side we do have to think about the future.
All good things do come to an end and the club have been somewhat justified in their decision by the teams form over the last two months. While Stewart has been out injured, Manly’s form hasn’t waned and the team have been able to continue their dominance without him. While I have always been an admirer of Glenn and appreciate his efforts in landing the 2008 and 2011 premierships, I also sympathise with the board, as it seems your damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
If you believe the papers then Manly could be lining up in 2016 without Cherry-Evans, Brett Stewart, Matai, Watmough and Kieran Foran. Now while it’s unlikely all of them will leave Matai, Stewart and Watmough want out now while the other two want to test themselves on the open market in 2015.
Coach Toovey has come out and said that no players will be getting releases and as a fan I must say that I support his decision. But this might just be me being selfish. Of all those apparently wanting out I sympathise most with Steve Matai. Steve is in the form of his life and a four year big money deal is much more appealing then the one year left on his Manly contract. Form can peak and trough, (with Barba being the best example of this) so if Matai has a drop in form playing at Manly next year then his price on the open market would drop significantly. So if Matai does want to go then maybe the club should let him. Although I thought November was when clubs were able to negotiate with players off contract next year, so the Warriors might also have some explaining to do.
One thing I would like to say to all these players as a fan is, What did we do? While they might be unhappy with the board, they should think of the fans who have dedicated copious amounts of time and money in supporting the team. While they have to look out for their own interests, the longer it drags on the more the poor fans have to read about it in the press. Brett Stewart in particular was always held in high regard and supported by the Manly fans in 2009 when the rest of the competition and rival fans turned their back on him.
Hopefully this either all blows over or sorts it out in the next few weeks so the club can concentrate on winning their third premiership in seven years. They should have plenty of motivation as this year could be the final time that they all play together.