A Manly Man Yet another round of pre-season trials passes and is blighted by another scandal involving young footballers running amok. Predictably this is followed by another outpouring of public outrage at the actions of these highly paid professionals crossing so-called moral boundaries. It gives me reason to pause and consider the spotlight we place on these young footballers and the expectation we put upon them to be ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‹Âœrole modelsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?. Do we not all know of friends, relatives, children and nephews that indulge in similar behaviour without the full force of societyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s outraged being pressed upon them? Yet we expect the best of men who have often been pulled directly out of high school, given a pay packet many times that of their peers and an abundance of time with little to occupy them? We expect something from these men because they have been assigned the roles of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“heroÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? in our society. These days there is a growing shortage of genuine heroes in many of the major institutions of our society. Who is there to inspire, honour and emulate in some of our major institutions? In politics the debate seems to focus upon the lies told by our leaders, the broken promises and the influence of major companies and interest groups. Where are the Wilberforces that doggedly sought after legislative change in the abolishment of the slave trade? The institution of the church has been diluted by frequent scandal involving sexual and financial abuse and a growing lack of clarity in its message. Where are the great inspirational leaders such as Jesus Christ, whose teachings have shaped the world for the past 2000 years? Where are the heroes like Luther that railed against the abuses of the church from within or the Wesleys that would inspire large crowds through the power of their oratory and the sacrificial example of their life? Are there any religious leaders of today that will inspire movies in the future? Even our military heroes are besmirched by fighting wars of dubious distinction. So is it any wonder that weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ve grown to put on a pedestal those of excellence in the arena of athletic endeavour? The sporting field is one of the few places we can point out to our children to and show them the benefits of discipline, work ethic, team work and the rewards of excellence. But hereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s the catch. We want our heroes to be without flaw. Whilst most of us admire Shane Warne for his immense skill in leg spin bowling we generally loathe him as a person (even more so if he wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“one of usÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?). In League we applaud the on field exploits of Mason and Hopoate but we hold no real affection for them because their flaws as human beings have been put in the spotlight for all to see. Yet we probably all have acquaintances that frequent brothels, or go on drinking binges, or who give each otherÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s rumps the odd squeeze or, dare I say it, the odd finger poking. Quite a few of us would view their actions as unfortunate or damaging, but generally their actions are written off as ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“their choiceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? or part of the rites of passage of growing up as a male. However, should a group of football players of the same age and demographic indulge in exactly the same form of behaviour theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re exposed to torrents of public hysteria, shock horror and outrage! DonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t get me wrong. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢m not trying to excuse the behaviour, particularly if any of the rumours emerging from Coffs Harbour a year ago were in any way true. However, spend time in any university during orientation week and youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ll hear the messages of hedonism, promiscuity and indulgence. Every weekend youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ll rub shoulders with patrons in nite clubs drunk or high and will quite likely defend their right to a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“good night outÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? So why exactly are we shocked when these messages manifest themselves in our young men in the NRL? I contend that is we who have placed these men on a pedestal because of our need for heroes to emulate. Their sole qualification is the ability to play a high octane and brutal contact sport. Often they are placed there without adequate preparation and support. The virulence of our reaction betrays the fact that their inevitable fall is reviled only because it holds up a mirror and reflects back to us much of our own society that is decaying and reprehensible. Yet it would be remiss of me to not point out that there are some that stand upon the pedestal of the hero and are worthy of their calling. Whilst the ability to tackle, run and pass is not an immediate qualification for greatness, it is the other human traits that these characters display, despite the spotlight of fame, which earns them to the right to wear the distinction with pride. I think the best example we have of that at Manly is Steve ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“BeaverÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? Menzies. He burst onto the scene as a rangy, long striding teenager in a match against the all-conquering Broncos n 1993 and more than held his own against a star studded forward pack. Within two years of his debut he was one of the top echelon of players to benefit from the fierce bidding war that broke out for their services as the Super League began to wind itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s tentacles of filthy lucre over the game. In his early twenties he was a member of one of the greatest League teams to grace a paddock and a member of a back row trio that only comes to clubs once in a lifetime. When he was at the height of his powers as a player his club fell on hard times and the years of success quickly dried up. Yet he remained the one consistent player and was still able to push for representative honours from the cellar. Yet what makes Menzies a hero to the Manly faithful runs far deeper than what he has achieved on the field. What will rank him as a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“greatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? of this club is the strength of character that he has shown over thirteen years in the maroon and white. Bear with me as I reminisce about those traits which have endeared him to us. Loyalty: It is one thing to remain with a club when they are successful and when the benefits from that success flow in the form of frequent call ups to representative teams. Menzies enjoyed huge success in the early part of his career. Many are the player that are seen as ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“loyalÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? but their loyalty is not tested by the frosts of losing seasons and poorly performed colleagues. However, Menzies has endured test after test in the form of mergers, collapsing clubs and huge monetary offers from others but has chosen to not only remain in our colours but to go above and beyond the call of duty by unwaveringly doing what it takes to keep the club afloat and its profile intact. Humility: Menzies is the greatest try scoring forward that the game has ever seen. Countless times he has thrilled us by loping into the clear, standing up opponent after opponent, and putting the ball over the stripe. Yet there is only one memory that I have of Menzies after scoring those tries. It is that he stands up, a huge grin splitting his face, and accepts the handshakes of his team mates with little fuss or fanfare. Even in the days when players were encouraged to jitter bug and preen for the cameras, MenziesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ post try routine never changed. There is no lair in this man. He has always been respectful to opponent, opposing crowds and the name of the game that has given him his living. Work ethic: To reach the top and stay there requires huge discipline and a commitment to hard work. It is even harder to stay at the top when dizzy heights have been reached. Many is the player that has shone brightly for a season or two before being lured by the bright lights and temptations of fame. Menzies enters his thirteenth season at the top. That alone is testament to his hard work and dedication to excellence. However, each week that he takes the field he plays for eighty minutes and tops tackle counts, hit-up counts and is always the man behind the play cleaning up the mistakes of his opponents. Is it possible that he has saved more tries than he has scored for us? Sacrifice: This trait of character may not be immediately evident but I believe it has come into its own over the past few years. Menzies does not strike as a born leader. Yet he took the mantle of leader and captain, and took seriously the sole responsibility to be the guiding light and inspiration of the clubÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s next generation. It must not be easy to captain a proud club in decline, and take charge of an ever rotating player roster, whilst coaches come and go. Even more so when itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s not something that comes naturally. And Menzies has paid the price in terms of personal form and high level representation. Menzies didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t shirk the responsibility until a successor was found. So here we have a genuine Manly hero coming into his thirteenth season with us. Many (including myself) have bemoaned his lack of form over recent years and even questioned his commitment. I think it is possible that this is the year where we will be shown to have been premature. For I have a sneaking suspicion that with other senior leaders and players of quality around him, without the responsibility of being skipper, and with an uninterrupted, stable and positive off-season behind him, that we are about to see this man of immense character re-wind the clock and produce a season of such a vintage that we will toast it for years to come. When I think of role models for my own boys to emulate I do look at Menzies and see many things that I can point out to them as things that are worthy, honourable and worthy of their admiration. This hero has not tarnished his pedestal and I hope the next two twilight years of his career will provide many memories for my sons to file away and remember for years to come. Steven , we are grateful for your efforts and wish you the very best for this year and beyond.