Did 'underdone' Morgan Harper's humiliation drag on for too long?

·Contributor
·3-min read
Manly's Morgan Harper (R) endured a horror first half trying to contain Sharks wrecking ball Siosifa Talakai. Pic: Getty/AAP
Manly's Morgan Harper (R) endured a horror first half trying to contain Sharks wrecking ball Siosifa Talakai. Pic: Getty/AAP

Many years ago, possibly before many of you were born, there was a bloke by the name of Steve Mavin who played a bit of footy for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury.

He was a really decent winger/centre and an even better bloke, playing 101 first grade games after debuting as a 19-year-old.

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But 'Mavo' – or 'Marvellous' as he was sometimes known – is best remembered for a horror afternoon at the SCG when it all went horribly wrong.

A series of handling mistakes gifted Canberra points early in an elimination final in 1987 and Mavin was hooked by coach George Piggins just 16 minutes into the game.

Half an hour later, he was sipping on a schooner of New at Redfern's Cauliflower Hotel, watching the second half unfold on TV.

"I walked into the pub and a few of the guys said ' what are you doing here? The game's still on'," he recalled.

Mavin sprung to mind on Thursday night as young Sea Eagles centre Morgan Harper underwent his own torture test, monstered by Cronulla's Siosifa Talakai in the biggest mismatch since Hornswoggle took on Great Khali in WWE Survivor Series 2007.

Morgan Harper hooked by Manly at halftime

Harper is a Lionel Richie lookalike and Talakai went at him All Night Long, or at least until Manly coach Des Hasler had seen enough and told his centre not to bother returning for the second half.

While Harper washed the tyre marks off his chest, Tolutau Koula took his place and subdued the beast as the Sea Eagles stopped the haemorrhaging in the second half and almost pulled off a miraculous win.

But should Hasler had intervened earlier, like Piggins did all those years ago?

Given Manly finished just 12 points shy of the Sharks after giving up 32 unanswered points in the first half, could the match have been saved if Hasler had hooked Harper after 15-20 minutes?

Or was the coach thinking long-term and the potential damage and humiliation it would have caused by dragging him off so early?

Pictured centre, Manly's Morgan Harper is tackled during the round seven NRL match against the Cronulla Sharks.
Morgan Harper's first game back from Covid-19 was one to forget for the Manly centre against Cronulla. Pic: Getty

Now in his mid-50s, Mavin still wishes he had been given longer to make good on his mistakes.

But he also recognises Piggins made the right call in that moment.

"He probably did the right thing. I was a young kid with my head down and he needed to get a fresh body on there with a little bit of confidence," he said.

Time will tell whether Hasler did the right thing in keeping Harper out there.

The Sea Eagles coach cares deeply about his players and was hurting over the Harper demolition, hinting at some regret for picking the centre so soon after a Covid-enforced break.

"In hindsight - it is wonderful thing, hindsight - he was underdone a little bit, but he won’t use that as an excuse," Hasler said.

"He is a real proud kid and he will learn, it was a real tough night for him tonight, there is no doubt about that and he won't hide from that.

"We will fix that off and he will dust himself off and live to fight another day."

It's a fightback that will have to begin in the NSW Cup, with the mental battle bigger than the physical one.

Marvellous Mavin will be the first to tell you that.

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