This is Part 6 of my series speaking with fans from all NRL teams to see what it’s really like to support their team. This week, the Manly Sea Eagles.
“We hate Manly!”
“Yeah?! Well Manly hates you too!”
Ahh yes. Remember those days? They were the team we were taught to despise. The Silvertails from the ritzy Northern Beaches.
The joke among rugby league fans was that you supported your own team, and then whoever was playing Manly.
And Manly were fine with that.
While the Sea Eagles aren’t everyone’s top rivals anymore, there are those who haven’t forgotten the past: the club’s supporters.
A force to be reckoned with and one of the most loyal fanbases in the league, Sea Eagles fans are tough as nails, knowing that the world’s against them, and always wearing their team colours with pride.
I spoke with two of those passionate fans, Max and Rob, to discuss their unwavering love.
My first question was filled with confusion: why did they become Manly fans? No seriously, why? Did they lose a bet?
“Oh, you’re too funny,” Max answers sarcastically. “I have supported Manly since I was seven and no, I’m not telling you how old that makes me!
“My Dad followed Manly, and being a daddy’s girl, I had to follow him. When the Illawarra Steelers entered the competition, Dad had to change sides to support our local team, but I just couldn’t do it. I’m Manly through and through.”
“Ha Ha Ha,” Rob says, with the same tone as Max. “My older brother supported them. I would watch the games with him when I was younger, and that was that.”
I asked the best and worst part about being a Manly supporter?
“The best part is being a supporter of the best team in the NRL. Also, being able to say we beat the Storm 40-0 in the 2008 grand final recording the highest rugby league grand final margin in history,” Max says.
“Worst part? There is no worst part!”
Rob says, “The best part is how much we are hated by everyone else.
“The worst part is watching teams like Parramatta steal our good juniors that come through the ranks because we can’t keep them all.”
Following on from Rob’s comment, I mentioned how Manly don’t cop the hatred that they use to anymore. I asked why they thought this was, and if they preferred being everyone’s arch nemesis, or enjoyed being liked by opposing fans.
“I enjoy being public enemy number one,” Rob replies. “It’s always good for a bit of banter between my mates.”
“It’s because people have finally realised Manly are an awesome team,” Max answers with a laugh. “I think we are probably still public enemy number one though – I know I still cop it!
“I actually prefer it now, but there was nothing wrong with the rivalry between Manly and everybody that played against them back in the day. I did enjoy the Manly vs Parramatta battle, and still do.”
You can’t have a Manly chat without bringing up Tom Trbojevic. Obviously, Turbo is just an incredible player and there is no denying the team plays better when he is on the field. I asked if they felt Manly are a one-man team because of him?
“Absolutely not,” Max answers. “Yes, he is amazing, but we have other amazing players too that help him shine.”
“It felt that way when he initially came back from injury,” Rob replies. “But once the team grew in confidence, later in the year when he wasn’t playing, he was obviously missed but not as much as at the beginning of the year.”
On the flip side, I asked who the most underrated player was in their team. Rob went with Taniela Paseka, adding, “I hope he has an even better year next year than he did this year.”
I was interested to see how the pair felt about Dylan Walker, given his much-publicised off-field issues.
Max, the ever-loyal fan, was only interested in his on-field performance: “Love having him. He’s a versatile player that has an awesome ability to play successfully in several positions. An asset to our team.”
“I like Dylan Walker as a player,” Rob adds. “He had a great year, but he needs to stop doing stupid things off field. Considering all the chances he’s been given, I don’t know how many more he’ll get.”
After all the speculation around Des Halser at the start of the season, I asked if they were happy with him as their coach. Max was straight out of the gates with her response: “Do you really need to ask me that question?! He is Manly through and through and in my opinion the best coach for us. I’m so glad he came back.”
Rob is also happy to have him:
“Yes, ‘The Mad Scientist’ has proven himself at Manly. He always seems to produce the goods with us.”
I asked who their favourite player was, past and present.
“Do I just have to name one? I love Keiran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, and of course Turbo,” Max replies
“From the past, Cliff Lyons, Steve Menzies, Graham Eadie, Paul Vautin, Des Hasler – I could go on and on! Absolute legends of the game.”
“There’s a few at the moment, but it’s hard to go past Tommy T,” Rob replies. “The year he had was just unbelievable. We might not see anything like that again for a long time.
“Past has to be Cliff Lyons. Absolute legend of a player who loved a cigarette at halftime and would still be able to run rings around players today.”
I asked what they were looking forward to most about next season. They were both thinking on the same wavelength.
“Winning the grand final!” Max happily exclaims.
“The possibility of a premiership,” Rob agrees. “If they keep up the effort and consistency from the back end of last year and tweak a few things it’s definitely a possibility.”
As always, the final question: if they could say anything to their team, what would it be?
Rob went first: “Good luck boys. Go out there next year and do what you do best week in and week out.”
“Teamwork makes the dream work,” Max replies. “Bring on 2022, it’s our year.”
The tide has definitely turned for how many of us view the Sea Eagles but their fans’ love, passion and loyalty are just as strong as ever.
Rob, Max, and the rest of the Manly supporters are right behind their team and hoping for big things in 2022.
And I still don’t think they care if we like them or not.