Inside Back column: northern beaches sports news

Morgan Harper.

Morgan Harper.

THEY call Morgan Harper "Lionel Ritchie" due to his likeness to the super smooth 80s singer, but it's fair to say the Manly centre didn't have fans dancing on the ceiling as his game fell apart against Melbourne in week one of the NRL finals.

The Storm targeted the Sea Eagles' fragile right-side defence all night long (we swear that will be the last of the Lionel song references), with Harper coming up with a series of handling errors and bad reads in the 40-12 loss.

It's led to calls from some for the destructive Moses Suli or Dylan Walker to come into the starting side at Harper's expense for Friday night's elimination semi-final against the Roosters.

But Des Hasler has forgiven Harper - and the team - for one off night and will give them a shot at redemption.

"If you look at the season, our right side hasn't been an easy picking for tries. If people want to continue going down that path that's fine, but it's not an Achilles heel of this side," skipper DalyCherry-Evans insisted.

"We got a massive lesson from the Storm in how to play finals footy. It was definitely a wake-up call. "Maybe we had too many people who just assumed it (recent winning form) would continue to happen. We know we need to take our game to another level and we can and we will."

Sea Eagles vs Roosters match is on Friday.

Sea Eagles vs Roosters match is on Friday.

Melbourne did such a good job containing Tom Trbojevic he was reduced from superhuman to human.

But an interesting stat, forwarded by Phil Gould, gives Manly fans hope that Turbo will bounce back quickly.

"It's probably an anomaly but looking at Tom's recovery times - whether he has a four-day, five-day, six-day, seven-day, eight, nine, 10-day break - his performances are off the charts when he has a recovery time of seven days or more," Gus pointed out.

"Any recovery time less than six days, his contribution almost halves and they're the games Manly get beaten. History shows on less than seven days' recovery he doesn't perform anywhere near as well as his peak."

There were six days between Manly's last game of the regular season and the Melbourne match. There are seven days between the Storm game and the do-or-die shootout with the Roosters on Friday, September 17.

In Gus we trust.

Well Warn path to the top

When John Warn reflected on his 23 years in cricket administration, which led to life membership of Cricket NSW this month, he didn't list competition wins, sponsorship deals or working with the game's greatest stars as his big moments.

In his emotional (online) acceptance speech, the former Manly player and long-time committee member spoke about his pride in keeping people in jobs when Covid was cutting a swathe through sporting organisations.

Some powerful voices inside the game were demanding Cricket NSW cut costs by sacking staff, but the work put in by Warn, chairman from 2013-2018, and his board enabled the Blues to ride out the storm.

"There were easy options to cut costs when the pandemic began to bite last year," Warn said. "However, the financial position we had built and an unwavering commitment to the game at community level saw Cricket NSW stand strong in the face of continuing criticism. Cricket NSW was the only association not to shed staff and the value of this was highlighted by the fact, Australia-wide, NSW grassroots participation grew last year."

Warn estimates he has sat in around 400 cricket-related meetings since joining the Manly committee, while still playing, as a 26-year-old in 1998. He went on to hold just about every position on the board while racking up close to 5000 runs as a top order batsman through the five grades. His ability to organise earned him a new nickname - 'Optus' - for the number of cricket-related calls he would make each week. Asked why he gave up so much time to cricket, Warn replied: "There was no place I wanted to spend my summers more than at the Manly club."

At just 48, the father of four is one of Cricket NSW's youngest life members.

Friends turned foes

Peter FitzSimons.

Peter FitzSimons.

There's an old edition of Rugby News - the one-time bible of the Sydney rugby competition - doing the rounds in which outspoken media identity Peter FitzSimons was featured in a one-on-one player interview.

Fitz, who was playing for Manly at the time, was asked a series of questions in a probing Q&A and came up with some interesting responses.

Asked his job description, he replied: "Running a video games business, a bouncer service and a home renovation sideline."

Personal ambition? "Make lots of money."

Favourite singers? "Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan."

Miscellaneous dislikes? "Losing and bureaucracy."

Then came the show stopper. Asked to nominate his favourite coach, FitzSimons responded with, wait for it... "Alan Jones (Manly)".

Alan Jones.

Alan Jones.

It's safe to say relations between the pair went south soon after and have remained frostier than the Arctic tundra ever since.

Decision imminent

Talking of Manly rugby coaches, the Marlins may announce their new boss as soon as Friday after whittling down 25 hopefuls to a shortlist of just a few. Senior players have been asked for their input but the ultimate decision will be made by a four-man selection committee. Inside Back hears a well-known figure is likely to hold off a quality field to win the job.

"The successful applicant must understand and embrace the culture of the Marlins and enhance that culture across the club," president Cameron Douglas told us. "It's a unique place with a proud history and we want a coach that will build on that."

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