Greg Marr: Warringah and Manly are great friends but even better enemies

By Greg Marr

When I graduated from our local rugby nursery, St Augustine’s College, most of my 1st XV team mates and I went down to Manly Colts.

Why? Because our school coach had regularly sought the assistance of the then Manly Colts coach, Barry ‘Tizza’ Taylor, who encouraged us to play there.

The first thing I learnt from Tizza at Manly was that it didn’t really matter who beat you, as long as it wasn’t Warringah.

According to Tizza, every player that played for Warringah was either an “in-bred, a has-been, or a never-was”.

It was a real eye-opener for us young gentlemen from the local college, as many of those Warringah guys actually went to our school, played rugby and surfed with us. Some even had one head and were reasonably literate.

I guess the Manly guys decided that anyone who trained that far from the Steyne Hotel and who wanted to play rugby with a bunch of hillbillies on the site of a former tip, was not quite in full control of their senses.

The fact that one of Manly’s greatest ever, Slaggy Miller, decided to head over the Queensie Bridge to captain/coach the Warringah Rats was considered pure treason and blasphemy.

Word around the Steyne was that the Russians were involved!

But the bitter rivalry gained momentum and we players were sucked into its vortex – we were mates for 363 days a year, but on the two dates of the ‘local derby’ it was different.

The games were predictably brutal at times and yet also hilarious. Both teams had their share of formidable sledgers, and I will fondly remember being informed of my heritage and told what was in store for my girlfriend later that evening.

And there I was wishing I had one!

The head locks, crash tackles, stomping and rucking was horrendous and most of that was after the game, at the bar!

We had our local heroes as well. Phil and David Speer, Garry Palmer, Bernie Bergelin and Jens ‘Chicken-Head’ Ward are just a few names that spring to mind when local derby legends and myths are re-visited.

The story goes that Chicken-Head actually jumped the fence and sipped beer with spectators after delivering a particularly withering ‘slipper’ to a fallen Rat during one game!

Plenty of players have also represented both clubs, so the old loyalty line has become a tad blurred.

And therein lies the irony! Warringah started as a few Manly off-cuts and outcasts who made something grand from very little, much to the chagrin of ‘older brother’ Manly. Despite their stated hatred for each other, off the field there was and still remains a begrudging respect.

Sure, Manly see themselves as the doyens of rugby and all that is good on the northern beaches, and the Rats as their evil spawn, who seek to tempt good men away from the Steyne to play rugby under the name of common vermin.

And even though the Rats have enjoyed more recent success, and their tip has sprouted into the finest club rugby facility in the land, the Manly faithful still find it very difficult to forgive and forget – at least until about 7.45pm at the Wharfie after the game!

Greg Marr played and coached at Manly and Warringah

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