Brett Stewart wearing a Manly jersey has been both a blessing and a hindrance during his career at Brookvale.
In 2009 Stewart was caught up in some serious allegations which no doubt would have turned his and his family’s life upside down (not to mention the life of the complainant).
At this time the Manly faithful, led by Des Hasler, battened down the hatches and focused squarely on his welfare.
Upon his return, Brookvale Oval was packed, sold out with support for the Prince of Brookvale. It was the biggest show of support for a player in such a situation in recent memory.
He has since made the NSW side and is likely to be selected again this year.
However, as I watch and read the debates over the best fullbacks in the game – of which there are plenty – the most obvious thing to me is how quickly they pass over Stewart.
Would they pass over him so quickly if he played for the Dragons? Or the Rabbitohs?
He may have missed two seasons with a knee injury but his statistics, and highlights, speak for themselves.
Stewart debuted in a Manly side that was not so good. The team, largely built around him, has become a powerhouse for the past five years.
He beat Billy Slater to the Kangaroos jersey in 2008. Since that time however, he had knee injuries, was accused of sexual assault, was subject to negative public opinion and was ultimately suspended by the NRL.
The fact he came back from the knee injury is miraculous in itself, however he not only came back to the top league he played Origin and was taken on Kangaroo tours.
His influence was so large that it even had bookies considering whether he was in the side to determine what price they would set for the Eagles. This reminds me of Andrew Johns.
Billy Slater and Stewart have been the best fullbacks in the game for the past years – I only wonder how good Stewart could have been had he not had the injuries. I get the feeling we may be considering them both for immortals status.
But even with the injury, his statistics are still very impressive. Stewart has played 164 games for 108 wins and 65 losses, scoring 128 tries in the process.
Slater, who has played over 60 games more, has scored 144 tries and won 163 games (with 65 losses). The next contender, Greg Inglis has played 162 games with 110 wins and 51 losses, scoring 100 tries.
Even with these impressive statistics, he doesn’t get spoken of in the same bracket as these other players.
A large part of his lack of recognition is to do with the side he plays for – I wonder if other Manly players will have their legacy harmed purely because they play in a Manly shirt?