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The Roosters are the real Silvertails

The Roosters host the high-flying Sharks. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay)
Roar Guru
30th September, 2013
40
1928 Reads

It’s a tag that was thrown at Manly by bitter coaching rival Roy Masters in the 1970s and has stuck.

‘The Silvertails’, the chequebook club and moneyed outfit who came up against his ‘Fibros’ from Western Suburbs in some amazing battles.

It was largely a baseless description but for Masters it was all about using it as the ultimate motivational tool to inspire his troops, although that tactic ultimately fell flat.

The Sea Eagles came out of that period with the on-field honours over the Magpies.

But the name has endured as Manly keep winning and recruiting promising talent from around the country, ensuring the jealously grew and the Sea Eagles became the club most league fans love to hate.

Other rivalries have sprung between Parramatta in the 80s and Newcastle in the mid 90s.

In time the ‘Silvertails’ moniker has been adopted proudly by some of the Manly faithful, as can be seen here, and the hatred of the club has helped breed a successful ‘us against the world mentality’.

Manly’s strong club culture and history of excellence remains consistent with 19 grand final appearances, eight premierships and 47 finals appearances since its founding in 1947.

Their most recent run has been remarkable with the Sea Eagles making it to their fourth grand final in the past seven years.

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While in the 70s, 80s and 90s Manly was a well-run, professional outfit backed by a loaded leagues club, the Super League war marked Manly’s decline and it was forced into a merger with Norths.

It returned as a sole entity in 2003 but almost went bankrupt, turning to private ownership in 2004 to remain afloat.

Since then the club has battled to stay alive, relying on smart recruitment, rookie coaches and powerful team spirit, not big pay packets, to slowly build into a contender.

Boardroom instability remains common and Manly has turned to its old boys, ex-players Des Hasler and Geoff Toovey, as coaches as it has been unable to afford a big-name buy like Wayne Bennett or Tim Sheens.

The Sea Eagles play at the dilapidated suburban Brookvale Oval, one of the oldest grounds in the NRL, which is crying out for government-assisted redevelopment.

And their current side has been built on the development of cast-offs, journeyman and youngsters, sprinkled with an imported star or two.

Apart from Jamie Lyon, who returned from Super League in 2007 and Manly had a big lure for him in Noel Cleal, and Brent Kite, who was a NSW Origin player who came from the Dragons in 2005, the Sea Eagles have nurtured a team together without high-profile stars from other clubs.

They have built their own stars from within – Anthony Watmough, Steve Matai, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans etc – and reaped the benefits.

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They usually try and remain, as Hasler famously coined it, ‘under the radar’.

Does that sound like the behaviour of a ‘Silvertail’ club?

Now, contrast that with their grand final opponents, the Sydney Roosters.

With their big-name signings of Sonny Bill Williams, Michael Jennings, James Maloney and Luke O’Donnell, backed by the bank balance of Nick Politis, the Roosters stormed to the minor premiership this season. They are a club in the limelight.

A club that represents Bellevue Hill, Vaucluse, Double Bay and Bondi Junction, with a hell of a lot more dinero in the eastern suburbs than in the northern beaches.

A club that plays out of the vast Allianz Stadium, formerly known as the SFS, that has been backed by the Packers and has had the likes Nine Network boss David Gyngell as a director.

That has rarely taken a backward step in its capture of stars from other clubs in recent times – Todd Carney, Brad Fittler, Mark O’Meley, Willie Mason, Adrian Morley, Craig Fitzgibbon, Braith Anasta, Nate Myles, Jason Ryles, Chris Walker and others.

A club that not only spends big on players but has previously on coaches too, from Phil Gould to their failed attempt to snare Bennett.

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Current boss Trent Robinson is of course the exception, as he is probably the lowest-paid coach in the NRL and has done a fantastic job.

Yes they have developed their own stars as well, and their own juniors. Anthony Minichiello is rightly a club legend and the Tricolours have put a lot of work into players like Mitchell Pearce, Jake Friend, Boyd Cordner, Aidan Guerra and several others.

But the Roosters, not to mention the Knights, Broncos, Bulldogs, Souths and a host of others, have a lot more money than Manly.

Generally, they don’t have a problem throwing that financial might about. The capture of Sonny Bill from rugby has emphatically demonstrated that to all.

Their godfather, Politis, who is estimated to be worth about $182 million, keeps them ticking along. His wallet has helped them stay among the NRL’s elite for two decades.

Now, I know you shouldn’t let facts get in the way of a good story, and it seems the same is true when it comes to grudges in rugby league – don’t let logic cloud your hate.

The truth is the Sea Eagles should have shed the ‘Silvertails’ tag a decade ago. Today’s Roosters are much more deserving of Manly’s mantle.

But identity, correct or incorrect, and animosity in sport is a funny thing. It certainly drives rugby league in Australia, along with tribalism. And, for better or worse, that won’t be changing anytime soon.

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Follow John Davidson on Twitter @johnnyddavidson

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