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Journey Man
Michael Monaghan's career has been a game of two halves, writes Glenn Jackson.

AFTER what he's been through at two clubs, Michael Monaghan is probably entitled to look at the glass half-empty. But he doesn't. He probably just looks at it as … half.

Despite the No.9 that will adorn his back tonight against South Sydney, the Manly player still considers himself a half, despite being now forced out of two clubs for not getting enough time in the position.

The irony is that Monaghan, 27, is considered one of the best halfbacks in the competition, so much so that while he was cooking a meal for his brother Joel on Wednesday night to celebrate the game in low-key fashion, many felt he should have been out there on Telstra Stadium leading the Blues out of the blues.

Former NSW coach Phil Gould felt Monaghan was the best option for game one - a somewhat remarkable turn for a player not even considered the best option in the position at his club.

Now, he is travelling halfway around the world to wear the No.7 jumper. There's certainly, well, no half measures with him.

But Monaghan, who was also forced out of Canberra, is not bitter. He will earn good money over at Warrington in the English Super League - $450,000, thank you very much. He just sees it as a business decision, on his part and his club's. In fact, he always felt he would head to England. He likes the lifestyle, and the idea of travelling over the English Channel to France on a day off, not to mention training camps in Spain.

It has just come sooner rather than later. "The main thing was when I finished my career, I wanted to make sure I'd made the most out of it," Monaghan said. "And I think playing halfback is only way I'm going to be able to satisfy that.

"Halfbacks have a lot more influence on games. When I finish my career, I want to at least know that I got the most out of it.

"It's probably the one position where the game really rests on how you play. If you have a bad game, it does make it pretty hard for your team to win, and if you have a good game, you put your side in a pretty good position.

"I think I play better when I've got a bit of pressure on me. You're forced to do things for your team.

"At the end of the game, you know you've had a part in either winning or losing. If you haven't played well and you've lost, it spurs you on, and if you win a game the halfback's usually had a good influence."

That's something Monaghan invariably has too.

This season, when Matt Orford was out with a knee injury, Monaghan stepped in, and the Sea Eagles never lost with him at the scrumbase. It was the same two years ago, when the club seemed to baulk at re-signing him even though he was starring … as a halfback. Manly's powerful part-owner Max Delmege had to step in to solve that ugly situation.

"I don't think anyone was doing anything out of spite or anything like that, it was just a bit of miscommunication," Monaghan says now. "The club was under real pressure, and I was under real pressure. Clubs have got to do what they think's best for their organisation, and they thought they needed another halfback.

"When I first moved here to Manly, they had two halves who ended up being moved on because the club signed me."

And so he is the next to be moved on. He speaks with genuine excitement about the move, after discussing it with his teammate Jamie Lyon, who spent two seasons at St Helens, his future teammate Adrian Morley, and someone he has never played with, Andrew Johns, although he has played in the Warrington No.7 jumper.

The Wolves organised Johns, the retired Newcastle half, to phone Monaghan and sell the club, while owner Simon Moran and coach Paul Cullen were on the phone to him from the UK almost daily. He appreciated feeling "wanted". And why wouldn't he?

That's not to say the decision was easy. Monaghan will have to give up most of his duties with the Arranounbai School at Frenchs Forest, a role which helped earn Monaghan the Ken Stephen Medal last year.

Monaghan visits the children there a few times a month, at home, at school and at Manly home games. He has helped to raise $140,000 for a bus to be purchased for the physically and mentally disabled children.

Some were in tears when he told them he was leaving.

"It's one of those things, sometimes in footy and life, you take things for granted," he said. "There's a bit of perspective, especially playing rugby league, where you earn good money and get a lot of free time.

"It's something that keeps you grounded a little bit. No matter how hard you're doing it, some people are doing it a lot tougher than you."

Being the second-best halfback at your club ain't so bad after all.
I thought you were done with him??

It's a shame it took you this long to see he's not a bad bloke and was always capable of being our 7.

It's done and dusted now.... move on.

Good article though.
I think byso is trying to make this the longest thread ever

Religon and monas combined would take the cake easily

If he had played for NSW on Wednesday night he surely would have been better than that imposter Anasta.

Come to think of it Cuthbo would have been a better winger than King as well.

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