SO KEEN are Manly club officials that fans support their team in its preliminary final match in Sydney tonight, they're providing a free ''Sea Eagles shuttle'' service to and from the northern beaches, starting at 3.50pm.
Sign of the times ... Manly fans have learned to live with the ''silvertail'' tag and the prospect many Sydneysiders will be cheering for Brisbane in tonight's preliminary final in Sydney. Photo: Brendan Esposito
''We want to see a procession of buses full of fans, who'll turn the football stadium into a maroon and white cauldron,'' says the chief operating officer, David Perry.
Maybe. More likely, though, the fans will still find themselves outnumbered by other ''Sydneysiders'' who, in the absence of another local team in the finals, will be supporting Manly's out-of-state rivals, the Brisbane Broncos.
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It's the ABM principle: anyone but Manly. Forget trans-Tasman rugby rivalry, a recent online poll showed Sydney league fans follow the New Zealand Warriors, followed by the Broncos and, in third place, the Melbourne Storm.
A Wests Tigers fan, Ryan Love of Campbelltown, is a proud member of the ABM party. He concedes the present Sea Eagles are ''stubborn bastards'', but adds, ''They're rich kids, whingers. You gotta hate them. It's in our culture.''
Speaking at the Western Suburbs Leagues Club, Love hopes that with or without the injured hero Darren Lockyer, Brisbane will beat the ''Sea Evils'', before losing to the Warriors in the grand final. ''… anyone but Manly.''
Love, 22, was not born when Manly was hit with the ''silvertail'' tag in 1978 by the class warrior, Herald columnist and former footy coach Roy Masters. He used it to motivate his team of so-called ''fibros'', the Western Suburbs Magpies.
The allegation reflected a widespread feeling that Manly was rich, rapacious in its ability to poach other teams' top players and over-represented in the rugby league administration.
True or not, the tag has stuck. Over the past 30 years, players, officials, even whole clubs have come and gone, but the Sea Eagles have remained the team everyone outside the Northern Beaches loves to hate.
In fact, the tag has become a misnomer. Despite the generous support of the local Penn family, and other stakeholders, the club has become one of the league's most impoverished.
It played without a major sponsor for most of this season, until a Russian IT security firm put up the cash. It is expected to announce losses of $1.5 million. And its stadium, Brookvale Oval, is one of the league's shabbiest.
At times, the club seems half in love with its ''most-hated, silvertail'' image: crying poor over a shortage of renovation funds, but launching its season with a black Ferrari, a white Chrysler stretch-limo and players in suits.
Tonight, though, the coach, Des Hasler, will hope to turn the ''hate factor'' to the team's advantage, presenting Manly as outcasts taking on the rest of the world.
A long-time Manly hero as both player and coach, Hasler has lived happily with the silvertail tag, the hatred, since he was a nipper. ''It's tribal. It will never change,'' he says. ''Fans always support two sides … their own and the team playing Manly. But that's great for the game.''
John Huxley is a Manly supporter.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/never-mind-the-broncos-its-manly-against-the-rest-of-the-world-20110922-1kncu.html#ixzz1YiS5XjEy