I'll always love Manly 9 SEP 11 @ 02:51PM BY PETER PETERS http://manly-daily.whereilive.com.au/sport/story/ill-always-love-manly/ MY fear of heights was tested on a Saturday in 1965 when as a teenager I sat on the roof of the now demolished Sheridan Stand at the famous Sydney Cricket Ground to watch the South Sydney v St George grand final. Beside me was my Western Suburbs, Wollongong teammate Bob Fulton who had just days earlier signed a contract to play with the Manly Sea Eagles. A record crowd of 78,056 saw the Dragons beat Souths 12-8 to extend their run to nine successive titles. When the Dragons were doing the lap of honour Bob turned to me and said: â€œWeâ€™ll do that together one day.â€ I never gave that statement a second thought until exactly eight years later when Manly beat Cronulla 10-7 in a bar room brawl-type grand final. As we passed the Sheridan Stand for our lap of honour, Bob put his hand on my shoulder, pointed up to the top of the grandstand and simply said: â€œI told you we would do this.â€ Mates in a trench then and mates in a trench 38 years later. Once I joined Manly, I didnâ€™t want to know about another club or another area to live. It was a tight club then and still is today. I wasnâ€™t surprised earlier this week when Bob Fulton was one of the first by my side after news that the club I love like an extension of my family decided - as is its right - to blow the full time siren on my working career. It is humbling to have the greatest player ever to wear the famous maroon and white come out swinging in support. I didnâ€™t expect him or the hundreds of mates I have made during my time with the club to do anything different. Manly gets to you once you are part of the place as a player or a fan. The 1973 grand final has been just one part of a magical carpet ride the best football club in the world has given me. I can never repay the club for the life it has enabled me to lead. When I retired from football to concentrate on my media career I refused to even attempt to hide my passion for Manly despite my myriad of bosses trying to get me to tone down my real thoughts. It led to love-hate relationships with my readers and listeners - ironically the same way the club has always been perceived. I remember the words of my mentor Ken Arthurson when he signed me from the Parramatta Eels. â€œIt is us versus them at Manly,â€ he said. â€œPeople hate us because we are successful. The players stick tight and the fans are the most loyal you will ever encounter.â€ Like most things Arko told me, he was spot on. When my dear old dad Bill died, Ken Arthurson became my second father and I have tried to live my life around his mentoring and his high morals. Part of that entails my football club of which I am a proud life member. If anyone is expecting me to dump on the club in this column they will be disappointed. I am sad to be going, but I can actually see where the club is coming from. Sure, it could have been handled better and the timing is awful, but thatâ€™s happened now and the club and myself need to move on. The support has been humbling. Amazing really - from politicians, singers, policemen, neighbours, motorists, sponsors, supporters, current and former players, people at my favourite TAB at Forestville. My workmates at the Sea Eagles are delightful and talented people who are experts in their respective fields. They donâ€™t work normal hours in a football season and with the likelihood of an appearance in some big games in the weeks ahead they are geared for a massive finish to a great season. They have been very protective and supportive of me in the past week. But as from today, I would ask that we forget about me and concentrate on what is a cracker of a chance of winning the clubâ€™s eighth premiership. ***** I HAVE written before that Dessieâ€™s 2011 side is as tough as any side I have seen in Manly colours. They proved it again in an absolute cauldron that was Suncorp Stadium last Sunday. Down 14-0 in front of a crowd of more than 50,000 screaming fans wanting to send their champion number six Darren Lockyer out on a massive winning note, a lesser side would have buckled and been beaten by 40. But Manly came back like their life depended on it. They hauled their way quickly back to 14-10 before having a try disallowed that would have given them the chance to hit the front with a heap of momentum. It was a mighty effort from a vastly under-strength side. The replacement players stood the test and so too did the young players in the side. It was a grand final-type game a month early. Jamie Lyon led the side superbly and I was proud to be with them and the 800 or so Manly fans in the colosseum. It was a game out of the Roman days. Highly regarded Sydney-based barrister Tony Bellanto sat beside me and he marvelled at the atmosphere. He has become hooked on the game in recent months and has made it his weekend escape in winter months from his weekly life under his legal wig. I have tasted that feeling every weekend of my life. How lucky have I been to be part of that ? On Saturday I will board the team bus â€œDessie 08â€ and head to the SFS with the team. I will sit on the first seat on the left. Across from me will be good mate and footy manager Steve Gigg who was at Manly when I joined the club in administration in 1994. Next to Giggy is the best IT man in sport in Australia, Will Badel. Behind him will be the best coach in the game, Des Hasler. On the other side of the aisle will be assistant coaches Geoff Toovey and Kelly Egan, then the mad Kiwis Donnie Singe and Andrew Rickenback, who bring so much humour and expertise in their respective fields of conditioning and physiotherapy. Sports medicine doctor Paul Bloomfield and high performance analyst Liz Marin will be in the next seats along with head trainer Alex Ross and sprint coach Clayton Kearney. Then the most important passengers - the players. In the same seats every week, going to war. Up front in the driverâ€™s seat is Mario Alfonso, owner of the Opal Bus company which is proudly emblazoned with a giant Sea Eagle. Mario is like part of the team. We are tight, we are proud. We are Manly. I have a few games in the front seat to go and I will do my job to the best of my ability like I have done every day I have gone to work. From next season someone else will have my seat. I wish him or her the very best and suggest they are in for the ride of their lives alongside the greatest group of professional people they will ever meet. And they will be in the inner sanctum of the mighty Sea Eagles family which has copped a shaking this week but is, and always will be, bigger than any individual. While my Manly Daily boss wants me to contribute a column I will continue to do so.