Mannah situation an unfortunate sign of the times

On Tuesday I woke up to the news that Tim Mannah had asked the club for a release from the remainder of his Eels contract to join the Wests Tigers.

While no official announcement has been made by either club, I get the sense a deal is coming.

As a Parramatta fan, when I read this news I had feelings varying from disappointment to anger given that if the move is immediate Eels fans won't have the opportunity to properly farewell a former skipper.

But my overwhelming feeling was sadness given that should Tim leave the Eels, the club will have lost one of its longest-serving players over the last decade.

I still remember Tim's debut season. It was 2009 and he played alongside the likes of Daniel Mortimer, Matt Keating, Kris Keating, Nathan Hindmarsh and Jarryd Hayne. He was part of that magic run which saw the Eels come from likely wooden spooners to grand finalists.

Tim Mannah, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis at the 2019 NRL launch.
Tim Mannah, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis at the 2019 NRL launch. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

One of my enduring memories of that season is the Eels win over the Canterbury Bulldogs in the grand final qualifier in front of over 80,000 people at ANZ Stadium.

It is the best match I've attended and when the final siren went, Tim and Daniel Mortimer ran towards the crowd to embrace family, friends and fans. It's one of my favourite footy photos.

We can talk about what Tim has achieved on the field; he has represented New South Wales, City, the Prime Minister's XIII and more recently, Lebanon. He also captained the Eels from 2013-2019.

But more than just his playing ability, Tim's legacy at Parramatta will be a man who embodied the values of a club that I am so proud to support.

Tim Mannah in action for the Eels in 2010.
Tim Mannah in action for the Eels in 2010. ©NRL Photos

At all times, Tim tried his best on the field, but was deeply committed to his community off it as well, working tirelessly for causes close to his heart like Ronald McDonald House and always having time for fans.

Additionally, Tim will always mean something special to the Parramatta Eels given that his brother Jon also played for the club. Jon tragically lost his battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2013 and since then the Cronulla Sharks and Eels have played the Jonny Mannah Cup in his memory. The match also raised funds for the Mannah Foundation.

I would describe Tim as selfless, kind, loyal and dedicated. They are the qualities which made him an exceptional leader at our club.

He will be missed.

As sad as this parting is, I understand that footy is a business and that loyalty is becoming less and less common in our game.

The Eels have had a really challenging - and at times - disappointing season. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Given how inconsistent the team has been, coach Brad Arthur has had to force his hand and in recent weeks some players (including Tim) have been dropped.

Now that Tim has asked for a release, who be the club to begrudge him of that, particularly if the club cannot offer him anything come the conclusion of his current contract.

I do not begrudge Tim this decision. If the Tigers gives him an opportunity to secure his future going forward, I support his decision.

Both players and clubs are busily making decisions about next year. Tim has to do what's best for him and the Eels need to decide who they do – and don't - want next year.

Tim Mannah and James Tamou.
Tim Mannah and James Tamou. ©NRL Photos

Tim's decision about his future may be the first of many decisions to be made by the players and by the club, which may result in a markedly different roster for 2020 with youth at the forefront.

We've got a glimpse of some of that talent this year and it includes the likes of Dylan Brown, Marata Niukore, Reed Mahoney with plenty more in the pipeline.

The future may be bright, but it's always hard to say goodbye.

If I could leave Tim with one message it would be a simple thank you.

Thank you for the years of service you have given our club and for the great heart that you always wore on your sleeve; both on and off the field. We will miss you, and we wish you and your family all the very best.

Wests Tigers fans, please look after him for us.