Eagles get the rails run
By DAVE ARTHUR
HAVE you heard the one about the star Manly player who walked into the club bar and the barman said 'Why the long face'?
Well you must have missed the news stories about their physiologist Steve Dank, who has prescribed his charges a new 'herbal anti-inflammatory treatment' called Lact-Away.
In another form it was a treatment given to racehorses ? yes racehorses ? to improve their performance.
Rumours started about the Silvertails a while back when training sessions were switched from afternoon to very early mornings and coach Des Hasler turned up wearing leather boots, jodhpurs and carrying a whip.
The whispers grew louder when management at the club were issued with trilby hats, trench coats and a pair of binoculars and the club was finally forced to 'fess up when a farrier was appointed to the back room staff.
Look, I must admit I was among the neigh sayers but results speak for themselves ? the players took the concoction for the first 12 weeks of the season and during this time won nine of their games, some of them in a canter.
Curiosity got the better of me and I called Manly club spokesman George Thoroughbred, who spoke to me on Wednesday afternoon from Royal Randwick, where he was talent scouting for next season.
"Steve came to us after the last race of Doomben's 2004 spring carnival where he'd been working as a strapper with avowed Lact Away advocate Jason Akermanis (perhaps that explains his on field horsing around?)," he said.
"He has been a breath of fresh air in the club ? why, only last week he invited Robbie Waterhouse to a session.
"We discussed how similar some of our players looked and he even gave all the guys odds of 300-1 on us making the eight!"
Manly is also rapt with the effect the drink has had on the bottom line.
Despite costing $300 a litre the club has made huge savings elsewhere.
Younger players who used to be given board and lodgings as part of their lucrative contracts are now housed in a hastily constructed stable block and fed oats and molasses.
Expensive win bonuses are also a thing of the past as players now accept a pat on the nose, a cube of sugar and a crunchy carrot when they salute the judge.
Former club landlady Elsie Farlap said: "I knew something was happening when two of the blokes suddenly stopped using their doonas and asked for hay in their beds.
"It saved on the washing but I had to buy a pitchfork and change it twice a day!"
Water bills have also plummeted as showering after the game has gone out of the window to be replaced by a good spray down with a cold hose and a roll in the dust.
The strategy is not without its problems, though.
When playing the Storm in Melbourne, the players seem a little disorientated and tend to run around in the wrong direction!
Another problem has been the massive injury toll with at least two players who have bled after games, six first-graders out with fetlock injuries and a further three with lameness in the hindlegs.
The farrier has been called in and the new boot contract with Nike has been torn up to be replaced by a product deal with a major horseshoe manufacturer.
And I always wondered why the field was called a paddock over here . . .
What a relief!
A QUICK thank you to all those people who have sent their good wishes following the First Ashes Test.
'Struth, I was a bit worried after the morning session at Lord's.
I was busily preparing a few SMSs to send, but can now safely say how bloody good it feels to put those whingeing Poms to the sword!