Manly feeling the love again: Watmough - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly feeling the love again: Watmough

By Todd Balym 17/06/2009 07:59:41 PM Comments (0)

Manly forward Anthony Watmough says the NRL premiers no longer hate the rest of the world and, as a result, they're starting to feel the love again.

The NSW Origin forward admits Manly became bitter following their infamous boozy season launch in March that resulted in sexual assault charges against Brett Stewart and Watmough himself being fined for allegedly punching a sponsor.

They were dark times for the club and they lost the first four games of their NRL premiership defence.

Each loss seemed to intensify the Sea Eagles' resentment but now, after winning four of their last five games to sit one win outside the top eight, happiness, at least among the players, is restored.

Watmough refused all media interviews for months but broke his silence on Wednesday as he prepared for his first State of Origin appearance since 2005.

Speaking before reports Sea Eagles CEO Grant Mayer had resigned, Watmough spoke of the players' anguish.

"It was us versus the world a bit and that's not good in a way," said Watmough.

"We got tortured a bit at the start of the year and everyone just hammered us. It was sort of like, 'well if you guys are going to hammer us there's no need for us to talk to you'.

"But you sort of get over it, you can't hold grudges forever.

"We moved on from the start of the year a long time ago but probably me and a couple of other dudes are still a bit bitter at some of the things that were said but that's life and it's going to happen and you can't hold grudges.

"(But) I think it made us better as a club and a team because we stuck solid."

Watmough says he felt hard done by "every day" and that it was only on Tuesday, when he was called into the Blues Origin side after four years on the outer, that he let go of the resentment.

He says the toughest part of the ordeal was the day his son Jake come home from school asking whether dad had punched someone in the head.

"It was a tough life. A lot of the stuff that happened and stuff being said wasn't portrayed the right way," he said.

"It was tough because the kids copped a bit at school but anyone with a bit of common sense knew what it was all about.

"My kids were smart enough not to read into it and trusted their dad and what he does."

The 25-year-old, who also has a young daughter, says it was difficult having people in the community look down upon him after being the hero of the 2008 premiership side and man of the match in the 2009 World Club Challenge win.

But he feels that the tide of support is starting to turn in Manly's favour.

"Last year was unbelievable, everyone loved us and we couldn't do a thing wrong.

"Then this year everything went a little bit sideways and we couldn't even go out and have a beer and enjoy yourself.

"Times have turned, we're winning again and people are starting to love us again which is good.

"You can go out and have a beer with your mate and people come up and shake your hand rather than ring up and tell stories about you in the paper."

Ironically Watmough's most difficult year has coincided with his return to Manly's leadership group.

Coach Des Hasler sacked him from the group a few years ago, but after playing for his country at the World Cup last year he was promoted back to the group and told it was time to "grow up."

Leadership is a role Watmough takes seriously, even if he remains a larrikin at heart.

He jokes that "there is a separate leadership group to talk about me", and he is only there "for the social committee", but Watmough is all business once he crossed the white line.

"Hopefully I've got a big input in the team," he said.

"I don't do much or say much at training but I'd like to think my actions take care of it on the field."

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