Mannah never played another NRL game after he was dropped following the 16-10 loss to Penrith at Bankwest Stadium on May 23, and wrongly believed Mitchell may have tried to seek revenge for Isaac by convincing coach Brad Arthur to axe him.
Arthur has vehemently denied Mitchell had any involvement whatsoever, both to the Herald and to club powerbrokers who have been privately concerned that tension surrounding the Moses-Wehbe bust-up would implode in their faces.
‘‘I have always picked the team and I take full responsibility for it,’’ Arthur said on Sunday night.
Arthur’s decision was based around a desire to bring in fresh legs, dumping Mannah – and three other players that day – after losing six of the previous eight games with him in the side.
Mitchell’s relationship with other players linked to Mannah and Wehbe never deteriorated. Two of Mitchell’s closest friends, James Tedesco and Nathan Brown, both walked out on Isaac in favour of Wehbe, yet their relationship remains as close as it was before.
At the time Mannah, who was once one of Isaac’s closest clients, had turned his back on the agent to side with Wehbe in the bitter legal battle between the two powerful figures.
Mannah had already gone to the NRL integrity unit to tip the bucket on Isaac, claiming the agent had asked him to lie about a third-party deal in the code’s earlier investigation into the Eels’ salary cap.
Mannah and Mitchell – who had travelled to Lebanon with Eels teammates Jarryd Hayne, Michael Jennings and Nathan Brown only eight months earlier – were no longer on speaking terms at training. It was the elephant in the room at the club.
Two weeks later, on the recommendation of Robbie Farah, the Wests Tigers offered Mannah a contract for the remainder of the year. Mannah sought a release from the Eels, but the NRL advised the prop that he would have to give back thousands of dollars that had been paid to him by Parramatta Leagues Club as part of an NRL-approved agreement.
Mannah decided to remain at the Eels and played the remaining 14 games of his career with the club’s reserve grade team, Wentworthville Magpies.
He had a job waiting for him at the club at the end of it, but Eels officials asked Mannah to repair damaged relationships to ensure that having him remain at the club wouldn’t create a toxic environment. He has since repaired a number of relationships inside the playing group, but not with Mitchell.
In his part-time role with the club’s commercial team, Mannah has no official duties linking him to the team but has a strong relationship with players like Jennings and Brown.
This columnist’s first interview as a journalist was with an 18-year-old Mannah, an article written for free and submitted to the Parramatta Sun following a 2007 interview at Parramatta Marist High School, where the Eels’ Jersey Flegg team used to train.
He was, and still is, a salt-of-the-earth type of guy. Which is why those who have been in Mannah’s company over the years were shocked when they learned he had gone to the integrity unit and told all about Isaac, resulting in his de-registration.
Mannah is not a malicious person, but he has put himself in the middle of a feud that is threatening to get ugly.
Isaac has already indicated he will take the NRL to court over his de-registration. Isaac has told those closest to him that if he goes down, others may go down with him. The Eels’ primary concern is that the ongoing saga doesn’t derail their promising campaign.
Big day for de Belin
Jack de Belin is in court on Monday, and there’s some chance his matter may be thrown out. The likely outcome is that it will be adjourned, but if he is free to return to the NRL with the Dragons this week, it won’t take long for offers to land in his lap for 2021 and beyond.
As revealed in this column a fortnight ago, the Wests Tigers were keeping a close eye on the situation after coach Michael Maguire met with de Belin at the start of the year. But if, as expected, de Belin chases the money to help pay his huge legal bill, the Tigers won’t be a contender. Expect the New Zealand Warriors to make a huge play.
Sad state of affairs
The Melbourne Storm may be at a huge disadvantage financially if the minor COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria continues to grow.
It was hoped crowds would be allowed into games from mid-July in Melbourne, however they appear to have been dashed. The Storm could look to take home games, especially back-to-back matches such as in round 12 and 13, on the road to make some money.
One possibility could be, if international restrictions are lifted, to take games to New Zealand in front of unlimited fans.
The NRL was concerned with the state of the surface at Campbelltown before this weekend’s round of matches, sending out an independent curator to inspect the field during the week.
Three matches were played on it over the round and it looked like a cow paddock by the time the Raiders hosted the Sea Eagles on Sunday. It will be inspected again this week, but the NRL may be forced to look at an alternative venue.
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Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald