MANLY are set to provide their NRL stars with around-the-clock access to a vehicle - a Hummer, no less - and a driver to lessen the chance of off-field misdemeanours.
Fresh start ... The Sea Eagles pose for a photo. Photo: Wolter Peeters
The Herald understands the Sea Eagles are set to pen a deal with a motor group, part of which will mean the vehicle is theirs for whenever one of their players needs it.
''We've got a deal on the table at the moment, that we're still working the details through,'' Manly chairman Scott Penn said yesterday. ''One of the perks of that is to have a dedicated vehicle that we can use for our own purposes, and certainly part of that can be ferrying players.
''It's all about maintaining an image but also making sure we're looking after everyone.''
Sea Eagles officials hope to avoid any similar dramas to those the Roosters experienced this week. While they were working on the deal well before Roosters five-eighth Todd Carney was arrested for drink-driving, their timing is exemplary, with the revelation coming just days after the NRL poster boy found himself again in strife.
''We've always been proactive,'' Penn said. ''We've had one blip, a very public blip, but we've certainly learnt lessons from that. We're very mindful of the club's image and making sure that the players understand their own responsibilities, but also that we keep communication high, so that if circumstances warrant it, we can make sure that we've got transport available so that they're not putting themselves at risk.''
The Sea Eagles' move will come almost two years after their very public blip, the club's infamous season launch at the Manly Wharf Hotel in 2009. The club was widely criticised for allowing its players to drink so heavily at the function, during which star forward Anthony Watmough became involved in a physical altercation with a sponsor and after which fullback Brett Stewart was arrested for sexual assault. Stewart was later cleared.
Stewart took a taxi home that night, but the Sea Eagles learnt enough through their ordeal to realise some alternative thinking was needed. The revelation also comes less than two months after Watmough had his licence suspended after he was caught driving at more than 50km/h over the speed limit.
Penn distanced himself from the Carney arrest, resisting the temptation to claim the Roosters' Dally M winner, who will now not be involved in tomorrow's NRL launch, should be penalised as harshly as Stewart had been.
The Manly fullback was banned for four matches for being heavily intoxicated just days after launching the 2009 premiership at the NRL's official eve-of-the-season function and the club was fined $100,000 for failing to police the consumption of alcohol.
''We're trying not to buy into it, to be honest,'' Penn said. '' The Roosters have to deal with that.''
While the Hummer was out of view, the Sea Eagles yesterday paraded their players in front of a Ferrari and a Chrysler limousine to announce co-main sponsors this year, as well as the reacquaintance with their ''silvertails'' tag.
The Sea Eagles will split their home and away jerseys between the club's main shareholders, Penn's company Penn Health, and Quantum. Penn said the Sea Eagles also wanted to embrace their reputation for being disliked. ''In the latest survey … we were certainly at the top of the list in terms of most-hated teams, so we may as well embrace it,'' he said.