Kent: Selfless Mannah proves a step ahead
Tim Mannah is the NRL's cleanest citizen, its most decent human being.
The only part of him to ever grow wayward were his eyebrows, which he now keeps under tight control with staysharp sharp scissors and a Black & Decker cordless.
So life got a little confusing when it broke Monday night that Mannah was leaving Parramatta, whom he has served honourably for 11 seasons, to join Wests Tigers immediately.
This being rugby league the investigation began, with full forensics, almost just as quickly into what must have gone wrong at Parramatta.
Nothing as shocking as this ever happens without a backstory.
The difficulty this time was to find a starting point. The usual calls to police media and the NRL integrity unit were pointless. Integrity unit boss Nick Weeks has a poster of Mannah on his wall, an example of the possibilities, so Mannah was hardly going to bother him.
Still, why would Mannah, after 11 seasons that included a stint as captain, suddenly be released in his final season?
Well, what a man Tim Mannah turned out to be.
It's here where the greatest twist in the whole saga suddenly took place.
Seems it was all driven by Mannah.
Sunday night he called Tigers coach Michael Maguire asking if he was interested in him for the rest of the season.
Maguire happened to have a place left in his 30-man squad that had to be filled this month.
The space was left when NRL refused the Tigers permission to register Zane Musgrove, still to face court for indecent assault charges.
Maguire could have brought up a development player or now he could take Mannah, battle hardened and ready.
Maguire was shocked but interested and told Mannah so, then said to think about it for a day.
The next day Mannah called Parramatta coach Brad Arthur, whose shock made Maguire's seem small, to tell him he wanted a release.
The Parramatta coach needs to reinvigorate Parramatta' season and believes the best route is through youth, the likes of Oregon Kaufusi and Stefano Utoikamano, and so Mannah faced finishing at Wentworthville if he saw out the season.
Given Mannah is chasing an English Super League contract a Wenty stint was close to death.
Mannah showed unusual initiative, with a good dose of smarts, to see the game three plays ahead.
The best chance he had at extending his career was to find a club prepared to play him for long enough to entice a Super League club.
For his part, Maguire recognised Mannah's qualities as a man. He knew how vital they were for a club in the middle of a rebuild, where the Tigers surely are.
The Tigers salary cap is in poor shape and it will take several seasons before balance is restored.
Maguire is fighting for enough space to work through the next few years until he can bend it back into shape and players like Mannah provide relief.
The Tigers' cap is top heavy with senior players getting paid overs and Mannah comes for the price of a ham sandwich. He isn't being expected to play any more of a role than the experienced back-up, the prop to bring on when others need a spell.
Better him than a rookie, Maguire figured.
Add to that Mannah's values and his personal integrity, good for any club.
Salary cap management is the dark art of the NRL.
The great strength of clubs like Melbourne and Sydney Roosters is their ability to recognise the true value of players. Maguire understands it. He got it right at Souths.
Good clubs refuse to go above their own evaluation of a player's worth and so they never get bent out of shape.
Discipline in the market results in balanced rosters, which produce success.
Over time that success can convince a player to take undoers to join a team where they are a chance to win a premiership, which is some enticement.
When clubs pay overs they don't leave enough cap space to round out their roster, creating a vicious cycle.
That's where the Tigers have landed. The club was in upheaval in recent seasons.
A carousel of coaches, a change in club chair, a suspended chief executive, the recent resignation of the general manager of football, have all contributed to a club with confused leadership.
Each in their own way has tried to fast-track success, falling to the temptation of haste.
Maguire has walked into the club with a view to sticking around for the long term, so his decisions are being made for the long term good.
Mannah, a short term stay, has come along as a gift.