DEAR sweet lovable Manly.
Why were they so unkind to you for all those years? How could they call you Silvertails and snobs? How could they claim you bought your success and spent your time laughing at your impoverished rivals from the sun drenched balconies of your three-storey beachside mansions?
It just doesn&rsquo;t seem right when, this week, you seem so damned cute and cuddly. While you are smiling and dancing in the Grand Final spotlight and making it so hard to detest you.
Geoff Toovey had us going for a minute. When an anxious reporter at Thursday&rsquo;s press conference inadvertently addressed your coach by his last name - &lsquo;&rsquo;So, Toovey, how&rsquo;s the preparation going...&quot; - you would have thought she had just snapped Brett Stewart's fibula.
&quot;It&rsquo;s Geoff,&quot; he corrected in a schoolmasterly way. &quot;No, Mr Toovey! No wonder our kids have got no manners.&quot;
Typical snooty north shore attitude. Except, when the conference finished, Toovey went to the reporter and apologised profusely.
Sea Eagles Team Pic
Richie Fa'aoso wears a neck brace during the Manly Sea Eagles' open media day ahead of the 2013 NRL Grand Final. Picture: Brett Costello
You apologising, Manly? I&rsquo;m just going to check my letterbox to see if there is a birthday card from Attila the Hun.
Toovey did not just say sorry because he feared another $10,000 fine. It was because - perish the thought - your coach seems like a good bloke. Proud but self-effacing and totally unapologetic about wearing his heart, and several other vital organs, on his sleeve.
&quot;I like the drama, I like to have some character and I like the players to have some character,&quot; said Toovey, prescribing a welcome antidote to the increasingly robotic world of professional sport.
Don&rsquo;t you hate that? Me neither. Nor do your players, who have emerged from your heavily fortified headquarters and embraced grand final week.
&quot;We&rsquo;re excited,&quot; said Toovey, using a term traditionally associated with sudden share market moves on your side of the bridge, not football matches. And, dammit, you can&rsquo;t help feel a bit excited for him and your players.
Who wins the NRL Grand Final office rivalry? Will it be Igor the Sea Eagle or Rocky the Rooster?
How could you not feel good for David &lsquo;&rsquo;Wolfman'' Williams, who looked at his teammates' chicken lunches almost as forlornly as he looked at their premiership medallions when he missed the 2011 Grand Final.
Will Williams abandon his &lsquo;&rsquo;Caveman diet&rsquo;&rsquo; and have a steak after Sunday's game?
&quot;I think I&rsquo;ll be eating worse than a steak on Sunday,&rsquo;&rsquo; replied Williams through that endearing facial fuzz.
Usually, you might hope Williams and his teammates would be served a big slab of humble pie. But, right now, the only reason to hate you, Manly, is if you don&rsquo;t offer the Wolfman another contract.
Jamie Lyon? As he rolls out the droll one-liners in his country drawl, hating your skipper is like hating French wine. There are some people who do. But that says more about them than it does about the wine.
The Roosters and Manly's last meeting produced just four points, and both Trent Robinson and Geoff Toovey have promised another tough, defensive clash.
What about your opposition? When they went from last in 2009 to the Grand Final in 2010, the Roosters were like party girls. This time they seem as cool and aloof as supermodels.
None cooler than Sonny Bill Williams, whose strangely enigmatic and apparently temporary return to the NRL has been reinforced by his failure to speak with the media this week. The ultimate professional in every way but one.
The once flappable Roosters seem calculated, even cold. You are as soft and fluffy in grand final week as we had expected your preliminary final victims the Bunnies to be.
So, try as hard as we might, we can&rsquo;t hate you Manly. We can&rsquo;t even hope you lose the Grand Final.
Not by too much.
Richard Hinds http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/richard-hinds-this-manly-sea-eagles-team-are-very-hard-to-hate/story-fni3gnk1-1226732584347