FOR so long, they have been the team rugby league fans love to hate - and now the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles are the team that loves to be hated.
Parading in front of a black Ferrari and a white Chrysler stretch limousine, the Sea Eagles yesterday proudly embraced their ''silvertails'' image.
''In the latest survey that came out, we were certainly at the top of the list in terms of most hated teams, so we may as well embrace it,'' the Manly chairman, Scott Penn, said yesterday.
Sports cars for sports stars ... Manly players yesterday. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Manly's silvertails tag dates to 1978, when the then Western Suburbs Magpies coach, the long-time Herald columnist Roy Masters, coined the phrase to motivate his side.
''The Fibros versus the Silvertails'' was born, a class war which battlers such as the former Wests halfback Tommy Raudonikis thrived on.
But in a world in which the divide between sport and business becomes closer by the year, the Sea Eagles have been through an identity crisis; the team which most supporters loved to hate suddenly craved the love, particularly of the corporate dollar.
No longer. With unabashed arrogance, the Sea Eagles players were positioned by club officials on a patch of grass overlooking Manly, in front of their cars for a team photograph, openly stating they want to be hated again.
''I think we are the most hated team,'' Manly co-captain Jason King said. ''It doesn't bother us. It's something that Manly teams in the past have embraced and used as a bit of strength.
''Hopefully we'll be able to do the same thing.''
And just when we were starting to like them again. Following their premiership in 2008, the Sea Eagles were disliked not just because they had become successful again but also because their fullback Brett Stewart was subsequently charged with sexual assault following the club's infamously boozy season launch in early 2009.
Stewart was acquitted last September and is attempting to resurrect his NRL career following two knee injuries; now he is attracting sympathy for his on-field plight rather than scorn for his off-field behaviour.
Club officials openly set about rebuilding the Sea Eagles image. But as in the saying: ''It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not."