Manly, Melbourne learn to love their enemy - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly, Melbourne learn to love their enemy

By Joe Barton and Greg Buckle 23/08/2011 06:52:59 PM Comments (0)

They've forged one of the NRL's fiercest rivalries in recent years but Melbourne and Manly were falling over themselves to praise each other ahead of Friday's top-of-the-table showdown.

The two teams will go head-to-head in a battle which will ensure bragging rights heading into the finals but there is no sign of the at-times spiteful rivalry that grew during back-to-back grand finals in 2007-08.

A win for Melbourne at Brookvale would secure the minor premiership, while Manly could lock up second spot should they prevail - and both teams would take a significant morale boost if they meet again in the finals.

Both sides were tipped to struggle in 2011 due to an influx of inexperienced players - but they have taken residence in their familiar spots at the top of the ladder.

Neither coach has been surprised at their rivals' resurgence.

"Not really, their club is well known for that and don't underestimate, they have arguably some of the best players in the world in certain positions," Manly coach Des Hasler said on Tuesday.

"(Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy) has done an outstanding job. They sit on top of the competition and their club is run on passion and pride, and that's reflected through his coaching.

"It's a tribute to him and a real testimony."

Bellamy was equally effusive when praising the side that has caused him more headaches than most in the past five years.

"It's more respect than anything else. We respect Manly as a very good footy team," he said.

"They are always ultra-competitive so we'd like to think of ourselves along the same lines."

It seems both teams have found common ground to bond over in recent years - starting with a mutual dislike of NRL chief executive David Gallop.

Gallop has confirmed he will be in attendance on Friday night at Brookvale Oval - his first match this season where he will see either Manly or Melbourne in the flesh.

And while Gallop will certainly face a hostile reception from fans of both clubs, Bellamy says there are no longer any hard feelings towards the man who stripped them of two premierships and three minor premierships.

"It's David's decision on which games he goes to," Bellamy said on Tuesday.

"It's a free country. It's a democracy. He can go wherever he likes.

"We don't see it as an insult (that he hasn't visited Melbourne this year).

"He's obviously got a job to do and whether he's got time to come to Melbourne or not, I don't know, you'd have to ask him that."

Manly's resentment of Gallop relates to the treatment of star fullback Brett Stewart, who was suspended for the first four matches of 2009 following the club's infamous season launch.

Stewart was scheduled to speak to the media on Tuesday but was curiously replaced by big brother Glenn at the last minute.

The hardworking backrower was interested to see what sort of reaction the NRL boss would receive from the crowd.

"Is he definitely coming? We'll wait and see what happens when he gets there," Stewart said.

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