THERE’S one hell of a feud brewing at the Manly Sea Eagles and it centres around club legend Bob Fulton.
Meanwhile, the standoff between Parramatta and Anthony Watmough is officially over with the club and it’s former star recruit coming to a settlement.
Fox Sports’ chief NRL reporter James Hooper has all that and more in week’s edition of The Mail.
MANLY’S IMMORTAL FEUD
THE power play going on at the Manly Sea Eagles is an early contender for the fiercest off-field stoush of 2017.
In the red corner, Sea Eagles Immortal Bob Fulton, a three-time premiership winner with Manly as a player, two-time premiership winner as head coach and put simply a Sea Eagles icon.
In the blue corner, new CEO Tim Cleary, in the job only 10 weeks, backed by the powerful Penn family who own the Sea Eagles.
Fulton and Cleary were once great mates who went fishing together. Right now that friendship is gloves off, all but gone.
Cleary’s decision to sack Fulton’s daughter, Kristie, from the Sea Eagles front office staff was both daring and dangerous.
Behind-the-scenes, it has sparked all-out civil war. And few clubs can do civil war like Manly.
Over the course of the last 48 hours, all sorts of claims about Cleary have begun doing the rounds.
As it sits right now, it seems unlikely both Cleary and Fulton will remain at Manly.
Fulton’s other two sons, Scott and Brett, are also employed at the Sea Eagles. Brett Fulton has recently taken over as coach of the club’s Harold Matthews side while Scott Fulton works in recruitment and retention.
There are scores of Sea Eagles fans on the northern beaches who are disillusioned with Bob Fulton’s influence since returning to the Sea Eagles at the end of 2014.
They want him out of the club.
But as a hugely-influential media heavyweight, Fulton has a long list of friends in high places and a core group of Manly diehards who will back him until the bitter end.
In fairness, “Bozo” was originally forced into a return to the Sea Eagles when the Titanic had already hit the iceberg.
The Sea Eagles Immortal was immediately tasked with trying to manage a roster of ageing champions including Brett Stewart, Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai.
Throw in the fact Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran were both out the door and it was a perfect storm.
Fulton then convinced DCE to renege on a contract with the Gold Coast Titans and instead sign a $10 million, eight-year contract.
The jury’s still out on whether that will prove a winning call.
The decision to extend club legend Brett Stewart’s contract until the end of 2017 despite a chequered injury history has proven a bad judgment.
This season, Stewart and Steve Matai are currently chewing up more than $1.2 million of the Sea Eagles salary cap. Neither will play.
Then there was the decision to sack fellow Sea Eagles favourite son Geoff Toovey as head coach, a play which left many of the Manly faithful angry.
Talk at the time was there was a revolt in the playing group against Toovey — but this has since been dismissed as wrong.
The Sea Eagles only just missed the top eight in Toovey’s final season before finishing 13th in Trent Barrett’s first season.
In the recruitment department, Fulton has brought in a host of players including Marty Taupau, Dylan Walker, Nate Myles, Lewis Brown, Api Korisau, Blake Green, Curtis Sironen and Jackson Hastings.
The likes of Jamie Buhrer, Tom Symonds and Clint Gutherson have been let go.
Fulton has signed local juniors Jake and Tom Trobjevic until the end of 2020, which is a massive win given they are the future of the club.
But the involvement of the entire Fulton family remains at the heart of this feud.
Brett Fulton being appointed to coach the Harold Matthews team has sparked immense debate.
Crucially, Cleary has the support of the Sea Eagles owners, the Penn family.
They have given him the green light to do what needs to be done to make Manly great again.
Cleary and the Penn family remain committed to trying to resolve the Fulton standoff.
Fulton’s contract with the Sea Eagles football department runs out at the end of next year.
Whether he or Cleary remain at the club that long remains to be seen.
As it stand right now, it appears perhaps only one can survive.