Manly admit they are devastated to lose Glenn Stewart after South Sydney confirmed they signed the dual premiership-winning back-rower for the next two NRL seasons.
Stewart’s future has been the source of much speculation this season and a tense Manly were dealing with the fallout of his move next year at training on Tuesday.
Former captain Jason King fronted the media to express the playing group’s disappointment about losing him.
“It is very disappointing,” King said.
“He has been a crucial member of our team, integral to a lot of success we have had over the years.
“Not only that he is a really good teammate.
“He has done everything possible in his power for the club in the time he has been here.
“Souths are getting a very good footballer and a good bloke as well.
“At the end of the year, we will be a bit devastated that he is leaving but we wish him all the best.”
Stewart’s brother Brett made a statement to media at the Sea Eagles’ Narrabeen base regarding his drink driving charge but refused to answer questions about Glenn’s departure.
Halfback Daly Cherry Evans would only offer: “I’m obviously glad that he has his future sorted out and I think now as a club we can move forward.
“That’s all I’m going to say on that.”
But King, who shared the 2008 NRL title win with Stewart, who was the 2011 Clive Churchill medallist in the club’s premiership win that season, was more expansive.
“We are not angry but it is disappointing there are no structures in place that allows clubs to be able to hang on to (long-serving) players,” King said.
“We have a few players at the club who have been here for a long time similar to Glenn.
“I guess it is disappointing that at two or three years at the end of their careers they can’t stay one-club players.
“The fans would really like to see someone like Glenn play out his years in a Manly jersey but at the moment the rules aren’t there and players of Glenn’s quality have to move on.”
Stewart joins 2008 Clive Churchill medal winner Brent Kite as another long-serving Manly player squeezed out of the club due to salary-cap pressure.
Kite joined Penrith this year.
Stewart is the second big-name signing to join Souths in a week after former Panthers prop Tim Grant accepted a four-year deal last week to join the Rabbitohs in 2015.
Stewart and Grant bolster a Souths roster for 2015 that will lose Sam Burgess to rugby union.