Manly celebrate with eye to 2012
It was the premiership that confirmed they still have what it takes, and now Manly are eyeing back-to-back NRL titles to establish a legacy as one of the great teams.
Grand final celebrations continued on Monday on Sydney’s northern beaches, with noted non-drinkers Brent Kite and Will Hopoate making brief public appearances before joining team-mates for a private function.
For many of the Sea Eagles stars the 24-10 win over the Warriors closed the book on a turbulent period for the club following their 2008 premiership.
Kite is convinced Manly have learnt lessons from their failed premiership defence in 2009.
With all but England-bound duo Shane Rodney and Michael Robertson plus Hopoate – who is taking a two-year sabbatical to undertake a Mormon mission – the pieces are in place to go back-to-back.
“That’d be a nice feather in the cap if we could have some success next year,” Kite said.
“After `08 we thought it might just happen in `09 and 2010 and it didn’t.
“From that point of view it’s really nice to find out we’ve still got what it takes.”
“We’ve got to enjoy this one and the lesson has been learnt that it’s not about just turning up in that following year.
“It’s very hard to back up. I don’t think anyone has done it for a little while.”
The last team to do it in a unified competition were Brisbane in 1991-92.
Kite praised the influence of coach Des Hasler for helping guide the club through the rough waters of 2009 and 2010, when off-field incidents, an ongoing row with the NRL and untimely injuries conspired to ruin their title aspirations.
It threatened to rob the team of the chance to reach its full potential, but another win in 2012 would surely see this side mentioned in the same breath as the dominant Broncos sides of the 1990s and Parramatta’s all-conquering teams in the 1980s.
“I’ve always said to the guys that we’ve got the squad here so if we don’t go and have more success we might retire feeling like we left one in the bag,” Kite said.
“Des has done a great job to keep the nucleus of the side together and that’s very hard with the salary cap.
“He’s managed to keep new guys coming through and keep some experienced guys around as well.”
Someone who has been there with Kite throughout the ride – Anthony Watmough – revealed the lengths some went to in a bid to keep the squad together.
Watmough and Kite were two of eight players from the side which ran out for the 2008 decider who were there again on Sunday night.
“The way we’ve stuck together as a club and the way we’ve dug deep and still got a heap of guys from the last premiership – we’ve all taken little cuts here and there to keep this team together and that goes to show we don’t have a selfish guy in this team,” Watmough said.
“We’ve been to hell and back and especially what some of our blokes have got past, and to get this for them it’s so sweet and couldn’t ask for a better way to do it.”
While the Sea Eagles remain clear on their aspirations, the cloud over the post-match exchanges between the Stewart brothers and NRL boss David Gallop failed to dissipate.
There were claims the warring parties had buried the hatchet from a feud started by the NRL imposing a four-game ban on Brett Stewart for drunken behaviour at the club’s 2009 season launch.
But with neither of the Stewarts nor Gallop offering comment on the incidents – when they exchanged words during congratulatory handshakes – there were claims on Monday the feud remained as strong as ever.© AAP 2013