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The return of the Prince

Mitch

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Jan 1, 1970
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2,611
THE moment Brett Stewart’s storeyed NRL career ended he abruptly shifted away to escape the hectic and at times painful life in Sydney.

The legendary fullback led an almost reclusive life in Melbourne.

But now he’s back at Manly with his former mentor Des Hasler in a heartwarming return for a player dubbed The Prince of Brookvale.

In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with The Daily Telegraph, Stewart opened up about his glittering career, his new role at Manly alongside Hasler, the Sea Eagles’ DNA, Daly Cherry-Evans, Tom Trbojevic, Brookvale Oval and brother Glenn.

CLASSIC CAREER

Stewart retired after 2016 having scored a remarkable 163 tries in 233 games for Manly, 87 of those at his beloved Brookie.

He played eight games for NSW, scoring five tries, and one Test for Australia, crossing once.

“You look back more now than when you were playing,” Stewart said. “When you’re playing you think it’s the norm.

“When you have a couple of beers with the boys, you reminisce about the good old days, even though it was only eight years ago we won our last premiership.

“There were some good times at the club and hopefully I can give a little bit back now. The whole team as a unit was pretty successful from 2007 right through until 2013, I guess. I was fortunate enough to be part of it.

“When you’re around it every day, you forget what it actually is because you are surrounded with greatness.

“When you come out of it and look back, you think: ‘Geez, what we had there was really special’.”

In our era, everyone sacrificed. It wasn’t spoken about but some players had the opportunity to go elsewhere. But what we had was pretty special and it couldn’t be replicated at other clubs.

“As a team and a bond, I won’t say it can’t be repeated but it will be a long time before it could be like we had it.

“I love the club, it has been good to me over the years. Sometimes it’s more than a club — it’s been home.”

Stewart enjoyed proving his critics wrong.

“I had a few setbacks and I was always one that if told I couldn’t do it then I would go against it and prove them wrong,” he said.

“I’d say my competitive edge and nature drove me and made me do what I did every week.”

SEA EAGLES DNA

Manly have endured some lean years but this is one of the oldest, finest and proudest clubs in rugby league. The Sea Eagles have won a premiership in each of the past five decades.

“I compare now with the side we had when Dessie took over in 2004,” he said. “The club is in better shape than it was back then.

“Des started coaching in 2004 and we won our first premiership in 2008 and made the grand final in ’07.

“Now that Des is back at the helm, everyone wants results straight away — that comes with the game today — but realistically you have to give it some time.

“When you look at 2004, it wasn’t until three or four years later that Dessie got a stranglehold on the players and club again.”

DCE FACTOR

It was well documented that several former players did not get along with Daly Cherry-Evans. Stewart said he never had an issue with the Manly skipper.

“I haven’t had a problem with Chezza at all,” he said. “He just mightn’t be a bloke I ring to go for a beer, and vice-versa.

“But there are blokes like that in every industry. It was well documented about some things but others were blown out of proportion.

“I am there with him now and he seems to have matured a lot as a player and a person. There was no dead air to clear.”

TERRIFIC TURBO

Stewart and the great Graham “Wombat” Eadie have always been regarded as Manly’s finest fullbacks. Tom Trbojevic has joined the queue at just 22.

“What a great kid,” Stewart said. “People forget he is only 22, 23 in October. He has an old head on his shoulders for such a young bloke.

“Tommy and Jake come from such a good family, so respectful. The competitive drive I had, I see that with Tom and Jake. Tom has a long future in our game.”

JAPANESE SNAKE

Stewart spent two years in Melbourne managing Tokosan, a Japanese restaurant based in Prahran.

He has returned through a desire to live in Sydney again, a coaching job at Manly and a job with All-Pro cleaning and chemical supplies.

“I still have a percentage in the business but I’m no longer playing a management role,” Stewart said. “I was basically managing the restaurant full-time.

“I didn’t really have a lot of spare time. I had to deal with the weather but Melbourne is a pretty good city.

“I had a career in Sydney for 15, 16 years so I just wanted a change. I actually enjoyed being down there and not being recognised.

“In saying that, maybe the business would be going a little bit better if it was in Sydney and I could leverage it off my name a little bit more, but it’s not to be.

“I’d probably say no but everyone around me says I’m a little bit more easygoing and easier to speak to, for whatever reason.

“My business partner is running Tokosan now but there was an opportunity to work with a cleaning and chemical company, All-Pro. I couldn’t let it slip.”

MANLY MENTOR

“I have a few roles within,’’ Stewart said. “I am doing some ambassadorial stuff and mentoring the fullbacks, wingers and centres while doing some coaching as well.

“The coaching part is relatively new to me. I only started in January. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would be coaching, I would have said no.

“But when you go away from the game and come back, I guess you have a new-found appreciation about what you know about the game.

“I was a more relaxed sort of player but in this day and age, it’s a lot more stressful on the younger blokes.

“If I can be a sounding board with some of their problems … I went through stuff myself off the field. I think if you get that right, the football will follow suit.”

DASHING DESSIE

Asked to describe Hasler, Stewart said: “He wouldn’t like me telling you! He has a heart of gold. He intimidates a few people, that’s his character.

“He can be a bit weird in some of his outlooks, some of opinions. But that’s what I love about him. He can be a bit alternate at times.

“But I have a lot of time for Dessie. He has always been there for me, definitely a mentor to me. He showed me plenty of loyalty. What a good person he really is.

“I will try and help wherever I can, not just in football but anything in life. The club needs to let Des wave his wand. He is Manly through and through.”

OLD MATE’S ACT

Stewart has tried to retain contact with his former Manly teammates.

“Stevie Matai seems to be a bit hard to get hold of,” Stewart said. “No one can find him but we hear he’s doing well.

“I still speak to Killer (Jamie Lyon) quite regularly and (brother) Glenn, I speak to him every day, twice a day.

“Choccy (Anthony Watmough) is doing well with his restaurant (Circular Quay-based Cubby’s Kitchen), he is working his butt off there every day. It’s good to see him doing well.

“I spoke to Foz (Kieran Foran) before his (ankle) surgery. I feel a bit sorry for the bugger. He just can’t take a trick at the moment.

“That game on the weekend (for Canterbury) was the best he has had in many years.”

BRILLIANT BROOKIE

“I went there the other week for the captain’s run,” Stewart said. “I got butterflies and it was only a training session.

“I used to love playing there. The fans were great. They were close to the action. I just feel comfortable there. I have some really great memories.

“We won some classics there, that’s for sure. And we scored some beauties there, too.”

GIFT OF LIFE

Brett and Glenn are as close as two brothers could be.

“Gift is good,’’ Stewart said. “He is in Wollongong. He has his boy and girl down there and wife Jo. He finished off last season playing for our junior club, Western Suburbs.

“He won the premiership. I think he is having a year off everything. His body has slowed, his knees are no good, like me. It took him long enough.

“He is working for Remondis down there in sales. He’s happy with a bit of normality. I think he will probably settle down there.”

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/teams/sea-eagles/manly-legend-brett-stewart-on-why-hes-back-at-the-club-he-loves/news-story/fde4d17f42b8edb505d93d79cb92efa8
 

SeaEagleRock8

Sea Eagle Lach
Staff member
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So happy to have Snake back in the fold. On a few meetings, from when he was a huge star, I found him extremely modest and respectful. Love the comments about Des, "The club needs to let Des wave his wand. He is Manly through and through.”
 

Harvies elbow

I'm a country member....... " Yes we remember "
Premium Member
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Apr 28, 2016
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7,526
Can't get through the paywall to see him but a great article on one of our all time greats.
Just love the fact he's doing well.
What a champion who has overcome more than most in his life.
Hail the Snake ...
 

Class of 96

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3,032
Fantastic read. So good to have Brett back at Brookie and it seems any past sore points have been well and truly mended. Also great to see how he reflects on the good memories, appreciation for what he had and doesn’t hold onto any grudges. We all needed that closure.
 

Rodo

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Great interview. He really opened up and had some nice things to say. So glad he's back in the fold at Manly and helping out. One of Manly's greats!
 

Dan

Kim Jong Dan
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Arrghj I want to treat that article without knowledge and scepticism. Love snake and what he represented. He was such a good guy and probably still is. However parts of thay article didn't need to be written and parts should have been left out.

Anyway great to have him back and around the club and hopefully coming out of his shell and being a champion like he was
 

Mal Cochrane

I'm not really Mal Cochrane...
Joined
Mar 11, 2009
Messages
1,028
How much do we buy into his statement that he and DCE were fine?

Or was what was written about certain players (excluding Watmough) and DCE was just paper and Silvertail talk?
 

wombatgc

Sausage roll eating keyboard warrior.
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That’s made my day reading that. I bet Tommy is loving having him as a mentor.
 

Go manly

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1613713B-2FAB-4C8A-95F6-1E6D76A96C4C.png He certainly wasn’t laying low in Melbourne this night
 

Go manly

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
2019 Tipping Competitor
Joined
Mar 14, 2013
Messages
1,140
3B34413D-DB9C-4C6D-AAEB-302AD55692FA.jpeg Not sure how hard choc is working his butt off here at he cubby house
If you haven’t been
It’s a great place and 5 minute walk from the ferry and despite what you hear choc is a manly man

Never the less
Great article from the Tele
A champion player
A champion club man
But most of all
A champion bloke
Simply really ,buy in or get out and the further you buy in the less likley you will want to buy out
And we have a heap of youngsters who want to buy in

Moses

I hope your listening
 

mjb136

MWSE fanatic
Premium Member
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Messages
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Snake will always be my favourite player. What a legend and glad he is back at Brookie.
 

HappilyManly

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Premiership #9 is due!
Premium Member
Joined
May 28, 2010
Messages
27,992
Can't get through the paywall to see him but a great article on one of our all time greats.
Just love the fact he's doing well.
What a champion who has overcome more than most in his life.
Hail the Snake ...
NTNEWS.COM.AU
‘Heartbroken’ Manly legend slams NRL’s de Belin law
APRIL 03, 2019



Former rugby league superstar Brett Stewart has finally opened up about his “heartbreak’’ at being kicked out of the game for sexual assault claims over which he was later cleared by a jury.

Saying he was “baffled’’ by the NRL’s no-fault stand-down rule in relation to the Dragons’ Jack de Belin, Stewart revealed he is still haunted by his own dramas and how he was treated by the NRL a decade ago, saying: “There will always be something burning inside me.’’

Breaking a 10-year silence on the issue, Stewart said he was “heartbroken” at being stood down from playing before 2009 sexual assault allegations reached court and he was ultimately found not guilty by a jury.


Stewart still carries the pain of his NRL exit. Image: Phil Hillyard
“It is too big of a thing in my life just to block out,’’ Stewart admitted. “I could sit here and say I’ve blocked it out but I’d be lying. It affected me then and is probably still affecting me now.

“I don’t trust many people any more where before it happened I was pretty open and talked to anyone. Now I’m a bit more cut off, a closed book.

“The hardest part was my family. I knew I was strong enough to get through it but the people it affected around you, that’s the hardest bit.

“The people you don’t see, your loved ones, friends and family, extended friends and family. It affects them. That’s what broke my heart.”


Stewart was eventually cleared of the charges in court.
The NRL remains under scrutiny for standing down de Belin while he faces sexual assault allegations. Manly’s Dylan Walker, on domestic violence charges, and Penrith’s Tyrone May — for allegedly filming and disseminating sexual acts — are also subject to bans.

Stewart has questioned the NRL’s new policy, where players charged with serious offences are stood down before the matter has proceeded to court.

“The last time I checked it was innocent until proven guilty,” Stewart said.

The former NSW and Australian fullback, who retired in 2016, said he questioned whether the NRL was concerned about “player welfare”.


Stewart knows too well what Dragons player Jack de Belin is going through. Image: AAP Image/Dean Lewins
“I have been there,” he said. “I can’t speak on anyone’s behalf — or on Jack de Belin’s behalf — but I can speak from what I went through.

“How the NRL thinks they can do that … this is me talking … it baffles me.

“No one really knows what has happened. My thinking would be to let the accused go through court and let them then find out whether he is guilty or not. How can you penalise him before he has been to court?

“He will be trialled twice. You’d think they would have learned a few things from my case. From the outside looking in, it doesn’t seem like they have.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take before they put the player first.

“I know it’s a serious charge but has the NRL thought about player welfare? I’m not sure.”


Manly coach Des Hasler avoid the media during Stewart’s trial.
NOT GUILTY

Despite being suspended for four games before the allegations went to court, a jury found Stewart not guilty of sexual assault in 2010. After a 10-day trial, the 12-member jury took less than two hours to exonerate Stewart. But the acquittal did not heal his mental scars. “The (playing) suspension that came after I was charged, I was then found not guilty, how do I get those games back?” Stewart asked.

“I know it’s the least of my worries but those four games I was suspended, they can’t give you those games back. You can’t take it back.

“And that’s not to mention what it’s done to my family. There will always be something burning inside me, for sure, but I will keep moving forward. People probably forget about it because I’m not around or they don’t see me like they used to but it’s part of my make-up now.

“I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or anything like that. It’s part of my life but I think there a few things maybe they (NRL) could do a little bit better.”


Stewart has rebuilt his life and is back coaching at Manly. Image: Phil Hillyard
“It’s still being talked about now (but) after nine years I have accepted it and it’s just part of my journey,” Stewart said.

Asked had his family recovered from the ordeal, Stewart said: “How do you know? How do you measure that?”

Stewart made special mention of Manly coach Des Hasler, who staunchly supported the fullback through the allegations in 2009. Hasler has now employed Stewart as a backs coach and ambassador at Manly this year.

“He supported me from day one. I will never forget that,” Stewart said.

Stewart would not reveal whether or not he had been in contact with de Belin to offer his support.

Originally published as

https://outline.com/YTs2Ln
 

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