Manly's diamond in the rough

If Des Hasler needed any reminding that he’d purchased one of the rough diamonds of the competition this year, it was thrust in front of him in the lead-up to Manly’s Round 3 loss to Penrith.<br><br>Shane Rodney had been rushed to hospital the previous weekend during the match against the Warriors after copping a stray thumb which resulted in bleeding behind his right eye.<br><br>Rodney, who is tougher than the super-sized bulls he used to ride as a youngster, was forced to sit up straight all day, and even sleep upright as well – to stop the blood from pooling behind the eye, which, quite frankly, would have left him in a world of darkness.<br><br>And still, he was filthy to have missed the match against his former club.<br><br>“Well that sums him up doesn’t it?” muses former ruthless back-rower himself Noel Cleal.<br><br>“Anyone that gets on an 800kg bull has got a bit of balls about them.<br><br>“He’s done that so, yeah, I’d say he’s a pretty tough sort of person.”<br><br>Rodney laughs off any suggestion that the bullriding he grew up on, where he followed in the footsteps of his dad John, is a reason behind his toughness now.<br><br>Despite one particularly nasty incident in a rodeo where he was thrown from a bull, crushed against the barrier and then trampled on – an incredible 10 seconds which resulted in serious head injuries and ended whatever passion the youngster had for riding bulls.<br><br>True to form, Rodney plays down the injury.<br><br>“Yeah, I guess so, I was only young and I didn’t really take too many knocks,” the 25-year-old explains.<br><br>“I took a few, but yeah maybe it is (a good way to toughen up).<br><br>“I guess I haven’t had the best luck in the past few years, but my body feels really good now.<br><br>“I had a really good off-season here and Manly’s worked really well with me to get my previous injuries up to where they need to be to play this sort of football.<br><br>“So yeah, I definitely appreciate being injury-free right now.”<br><br>‘Injury-free’. These words mean more to Rodney than they do to just about any other players in the comp.<br><br>For the first time since 2005, which still ranks as his best first grade season to date, can trust his body again and as a result he is back to producing the numbers – 85 metres and 20 tackles a game – which earned him City honours in 2005. <br><br>It’s something Manly knew he was capable of when they shocked many in the league community and signed him to a four-year contract, despite his recent injury history.<br><br>“No, Des didn’t take any convincing at all,” Manly’s recruitment officer Cleal adds.<br><br>“His CV as for as playing in a grand final, playing City Origin… he’s just a footballer…<br><br>“He kicks goals, he’s got good footwork and all that sort of stuff, he covers whether you want to play him in the middle or play him on an edge, he plays either with confidence.<br><br>“His versatility is really handy to the side, so he certainly appealed as far as a player was concerned.”<br><br>Rodney’s versatility has had him thrust into a role which was shared by former Sea Eagles Steve Menzies and Luke Williamson in the past few years.<br><br>He is creative with ball in hand, mops up around the ground in defence and squeezes his head through the line in attack – and in typical ‘Beaver’ fashion, he even bobbed up for a try a fortnight ago against Parramatta.<br><br>And with Manly sitting on the precipice of falling away from the finals, and teams aiming up every week to face the premiers turning every match into a scrap for points, Rodney is the ideal person to take into each battle.<br><br>“Yeah, I don’t mind a scrap. I like getting in there and having to work hard and grind out wins,” Rodney says.<br><br>“I’m just happy to be playing consistent footy, but like I said I’ve got a fair bit to work on but hopefully the results will start coming our way as well.”