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Opinion

The ones that got away: Manly

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Roar Guru
30th June, 2022
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Unfortunately, club loyalty isn’t what it used to be, and both the salary cap and the search for opportunity means that players change clubs on a regular basis.

Sometimes fans are happy to see a player go, but losing a club favourite can be not only gut wrenching, but harm the team’s chance of success. It’s even worse when you see that player lining up for the opposition.

In this series, I’ll pick a team of the best players that got away from each club since 2000. The only criteria are that the player named must have made his debut for the club, left after 2000, and then played with another NRL club, rather than just retired or headed to the Super League.

Today, it’s the Manly Sea Eagles.

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Details in brackets are the year the player debuted for Manly and the number of games played for the club.

1. Clint Gutherson (2013, five games)
The former Australian Schoolboy couldn’t really get a look-in at Manly after debuting at the age of 19 with Brett Stewart firmly ensconced in the number one jersey. Manly’s loss became Parramatta’s gain though, when he signed for the Eels in 2016.

Clint Gutherson of the Eels warms up

(Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

2. Michael Oldfield (2010, 25 games)
The Manly junior began well after making his first-grade debut as a 19-year-old but was struggling to hold down a first-grade spot by 2012, and subsequently joined the Roosters in 2013, and never really made a lasting impact in first grade.

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3. Peta Hiku (2013, 60 games)
Hiku’s ability to play everywhere from five-eighth to fullback saw him firmly entrenched in the Manly team in 2014, and he also made his Test debut for NZ in the same year. However incoming 2016 coach Trent Barrett wasn’t a Hiku fan and suggested he look elsewhere, and he promptly signed with Penrith. Surely Barrett couldn’t have got that one wrong?

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4. Dean Whare (2010, 25 games)
Whare scored three tries on debut for Manly but competition for a place in the outside backs was fierce, so Whare signed with the Panthers from 2013 in order to cement a regular position in first grade. I can’t really blame Manly for this one, as Whare would have struggled to establish himself if he’d stayed put.

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5. Paul Stephenson (2004, 43 games)
He was a handy winger with Manly whose career faded after switching to Cronulla in 2007 and ending up in the forwards. Enough said.

6. Kieran Foran (2009, 184 games and counting)
One of Manly’s favourite sons, except for the five years he spent with opposition clubs, until he did return to Brookvale in 2021. He will be leaving again in 2023. He’s certainly one that they should have kept.

Kieran Foran scores a try.

(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

7. Trent Hodkinson (2010, 39 games)
He played virtually every game in his debut season but joined Canterbury the following year, and proved to be a match winner. He returned to Manly in 2018 for a couple of patchy seasons but his body was well and truly broken by this stage. Manly’s loss was Canterbury’s gain.

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8. Addin Fonua-Blake (2016, 97 games)
While a very good player while at Manly, Fonua-Blake had a chequered career and had some behavioural issues, so it may have looked like a blessing in disguise when he headed to the Warriors in 2021.

9. Matt Ballin (2007, 217 games)
He was a great clubman for Manly who was probably burned out by the time he headed to Wests for an injury-interrupted cameo in 2016.

10. Jared Waerea-Hargeaves (2009, six games)
Waerea-Hargeaves looked the goods even when he debuted as a 20-year-old, and the NZ selectors agreed by picking him that same year. However the Roosters got under Manly’s guard, signed him for 2010, and he’s been there ever since.

Sydney Roosters hardman Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

(Matt King/Getty Images)

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11. Adam Cuthbertson (2006, 54 games)
Cuthbertson looked destined to spend his whole career playing off the bench at Manly so it was no surprise to see him head to Cronulla in 2010 for better opportunity. Things didn’t quite go to plan and he spent the next five years in the NRL, across three different clubs, primarily as a bench player, before heading to the Super League in 2015.

12. Jamie Buhrer (2010, 128 games)
He was a wholehearted and versatile player who gave great service to Manly but never really came back to his best after sustaining a knee injury in 2015. So it wasn’t a surprise that Manly let him off the final year of his contract so he could join Newcastle in 2017.

13. Glenn Stewart (2003, 185 games)
Stewart lived and breathed Manly but wasn’t offered a new contract at Brookvale after 2014, which saw him sign with Souths the next year and then finish his career in England.

With the benefit of hindsight, I’m sure Manly would have liked to have hung on to Gutherson. Both Foran and Hodkinson were just too valuable to let them play with anyone else, and who wouldn’t want a couple of mean enforcers like Fonua-Blake and Waerea-Hargreaves in your pack?

The rest were probably no real loss.

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