Questions remain on Stewarts

WORD over the weekend that exciting 21-year-old Manly fullback Peter Hiku has been offered a new deal at Brookvale has started tongues wagging - again.

Hiku is a star in the making and on the occasions he has deputised for Brett Stewart he has certainly looked the goods. Stewart though is a gun, albeit an ageing one, but has a recent history of hamstring issues, something not conducive to a fullback with blinding speed.

And although he returned yesterday for just his second match of the season and proved the hamstring is okay, his future at the Sea Eagles appears as much in limbo as that of his unsigned older brother Glenn. That's why the rumoured Hiku deal has created such intrigue.

Despite yesterday's uncharacteristic loss, the Sea Eagles have had a gutsy start to 2014 and their record of four grand finals in seven years is simply outstanding. But the recent rumblings emanating from their camp might now be bearing fruit. The dysfunctional Manly board is cause for added concern.

The internal issue concerns Glenn Stewart, and the simple fact that the Sea Eagles do not have room in their salary cap to re-sign him.

Because of a back-ended deal - where top-ups to his contract have been systematically deferred - Stewart is apparently being paid $800,000 in 2014. That is one large whack of the salary cap for someone who has played just five Tests and five Origins, the last Test in 2009 and last Origin in 2012.

Those stats may well paint a picture of a guy whose best is past him, and the dawdling Sea Eagles management might just be reading it that way too. But the bigger issue is the fact that the rarely-smiling Stewart is popular among teammates, with brother Brett his greatest ally.

Media reports in recent weeks suggest Brett, and a myriad of other players, are pointing a gun at the head of the decision makers. Re-sign Glenn, they threaten, or we are off too.

Now brotherly love, and loyalty within a team, is terrific. It certainly should be encouraged. But at what cost?

The noisy faction - Steve Matai, Anthony Watmough and Keiran Foran specifically - understandably want the bulk of the playing group to stay together and have implied a possible walkout. But have they thought that if they abandon ship together which club could possibly sign them as a package?

While the Stewart brothers may not be leading the assumed revolt, maybe it's time they took the lead. They should either cut the umbilical cord and go their separate ways or leave their beloved Sea Eagles without destroying the club.

The burning question then would be whether any club would make what might be an expensive investment in an ageing commodity.


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