When Des Hasler left Manly there was every chance that Brookvale Oval would burn like Rome. An empire that had been painstakingly built appeared set to crumble.
The coach - the one who just earned them a second premiership, no less - was gone. Left behind was a salary cap fit to burst, a host of unsigned stars and officials still pointing the finger trying to work out how it all went wrong. Had they been fiddling, perhaps Rome would have burnt indeed.
But the club that faces its old mentor at ANZ Stadium on Friday did not crumble. On the field the team is as strong as ever, winning three of its four opening games. At the helm is a man once described by Godfather Ken Arthurson as the toughest the club has ever bred, Geoff Toovey. Some players have left - Tony Williams will face his old club for the first time - while the majority have remained. Often for less money. The club is expected to be in the black by the end of the year, in so doing becoming one of a few in the NRL to do so.
Friday's opponents, Canterbury, are known as the Family Club but Toovey reckons the moniker could well fit his. Asked whether he had any qualms about stepping into, rather unexpectedly, the head coaching role, he said: ''This is my club. This is where I spent the majority of my life. Whilst it was somewhat daunting the way things came about, I suppose it was meant to be.
''In saying that, the people that you surround yourselves with here are like family. The players are like family to each other and the staff are part of that group as well. The Manly club is bigger than one person. It's steeped in a lot of tradition and a lot of success, in rugby league legend really. The tradition and the culture here are passed on from player to player, from each generation of employee to the next. It's not something which magically appears overnight.
''If you look at some clubs they have a similar culture there and sometimes you waver from it from time to time but it's always there in the background.''
That's not to say that this family doesn't squabble. Even a cursory glance at the football headlines will reveal upheaval in the boardroom. At present, the balance of power is tipped in favour of the Quantum-District Club alliance. But despite - or perhaps in spite of - the inevitable dramas the club always finds itself in, the place works.
Sea Eagles chief David Perry said he was advised not to take on the role. ''But I didn't want to have regrets, not knowing what could have been,'' Perry said. ''It's been a roller-coaster, more so in the early days, but I've stuck with it. If I didn't believe I was up to it I'd hand over the reins in the best interests of the football club.''
There are other challenges. Brookvale Oval may not have burnt but it is in decay. Political heavyweight Kerry Sibraa heads a committee ensuring it is restored to its pomp. Potential prime minister Tony Abbott gave the strongest indication at the club's season launch the old girl wouldn't die on his watch. ''I hope you aren't the only ones in this room doing well come September,'' he said.
Manly remains the dominant team of the past decade, winning two premierships and making the finals in other years. They have overcome obstacles including an ill-fated joint venture and financial problems to the point where it is OK to hate them again. But are they still really the Silvertails?
''You would have to ask Roy Masters about that,'' Toovey chuckled, in reference to the former Western Suburbs coach and Fairfax Media journalist who coined the phrase.
''A lot of that goes back to that tradition and rivalry between clubs. We're proud of the history here and without history we have nothing. The players understand that, the staff understand that and the fans love it. It all goes into the mixing pot to make it a great place to be at.''
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