Bulldogs show how it's done in drama business
At a time in rugby league where clubs in crises are all the rage, departing Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis and the rest of the fine folk in Belmore stand out like a sore thumb.
The public contract bungle of confused Cronulla forward Andrew Fifita aside, there hasn't really been much for your friendly media watchdogs to poke fun at – except of course Des Hasler's signature under-the-radar return to the NRL elite this season, but even that's getting a bit old.
In fact, when you compare it to what's going on at Narrabeen and Concord over the past few weeks, it's all been a little too quiet out Canterbury way.
Which is kind of why, despite at least another seven games in his beloved blue-and-white, the skipper is already starting to miss the joint. A nostalgic Ennis opened up to reporters on Tuesday about what looms as an emotional final few months to his chapter with the Bulldogs.
"Every time Freddie, our gear bloke, puts the jerseys out, I look at it and appreciate the opportunity to play under the Bulldogs emblem," he said.
When Ennis arrived with little fanfare from Brisbane in the summer of 2008, the club was reeling from arguably its most tumultuous season in its long history.
Not only did fans have their hearts broken by runaway star Sonny Bill Williams setting off to another continent mid-season, but the club finished with just its fourth wooden spoon since its inception in 1935.
Enter Ennis, as well as the bloke who now heads up the football department at the NRL, Todd Greenberg, and the Bulldogs began restoring a club from almost irreparable damage. This September will be their third straight season of finals football.
"It's been enjoyable ever since I came here," Ennis continued. "It's a wonderful club and as I said before I really hope I get to enjoy the back end of the season as much as I know we're capable of, and then move to Cronulla and do my best there too for a few seasons."
Rising talents like Josh Jackson, Dale Finucane and Josh Reynolds have matured into exceptional Berries citizens under Ennis's watch, and know no other direction than the trail blazed by the former NSW representative.
"Mick's one of the most competitive blokes that I've played with and have had the honour of knowing," Finucane said.
Jackson added: "It'll be sad to see him go, because he's our captain. He's been the only captain I've had since I've played first grade, so it'll be strange to play without him."
Word had it that some were just as disappointed as those from Manly in watching their inspiring leader forced into taking his talents to South Beach.
But the truth of the matter is that the tweeners were probably just coming to grips with the fact that rugby league has morphed itself into the bottom-line monster that giant organisations simply are in this modern age.
So that's why when the 30-year-old finally made up his mind in June, he sat his team-mates down and told them that season 2014 would be his swansong with the club.
No hard feelings, no club politics, no hidden agendas. That just ain't Ennis's go.
"I just think that it was the way it was handled. The club did a really good job and I thought I tried to do as best as I could too and be honest with my mates and tell them what was going on," he said.
"I think we'll never know the real situation [at Manly] unless you're involved with them. I'm obviously not with Manly so I don't know their situation.
"But as I said here, it was all open. Me and Des were having good discussions and Raelene [Castle] was involved too. Everything went smoothly from my side of the thing and when it was decided and done, I was open and honest with the players and we all move forward."
It was an openness and sincerity that Finucane said the players appreciated.
"I think you really need to hear it from the player before you hear it from the media," he said.
"He obviously needed to address it with us as a playing group, because we would've heard it regardless. It would've been leaked in the media somewhere, and we would've heard it another way. I think it was best coming from Mick in the first place."
Now, unlike the carcasses that are open for all at some other clubs, all that's left for us fine media folk to discuss is a fairytale finish that savvy veterans like Ennis deserve. A motivation on top of everything else this re-established business club has going for them at the business end of this season.
"It'd be nice to send him out on a high and send him off with a win," Finucane said. "A grand final victory would be the ultimate goal."