Are two Stewarts better than four Burgesses?
And will Friday night mark the changing of the guard as the Burgesses replace the Stewarts as rugby league’s most influential band of brothers?
It’s probably an argument worth debating in 10 years’ time after we witness the legacy the English quartet leave at South Sydney, but as Glenn and Brett Stewart enter the twilight of their careers, there is little doubt they will be remembered as two of the greatest players Manly has ever seen.
In Friday’s preliminary final, two proud families go to war for their equally proud respective clubs.
In one corner, the flavour of the year and the talk of the town – the Burgesses.
They love the camera. They are a promoter’s dream and everything off the field the Stewart boys aren’t.
The Manly pair have long been regarded as the hard men of rugby league. No-nonsense footballers who loathe the limelight and take no pleasure in seeing their names up in lights.
Tough, unrelenting. They epitomise what it is to be Manly.
As siblings go, rugby league has been blessed with brilliant brothers. The Mortimers, the Walterses, the Hugheses, the Johnses, the Walkers – just to name a few.
Victory for the Sea Eagles would give the Stewart brothers a chance to win their third premiership together, a feat that has only been achieved by Steve, Chris and Peter Mortimer for the Bulldogs in 1980, 1984 and 1985.
While they may not have the same numbers as the Mortimers, Canterbury great Steve Mortimer rates the Stewarts as one of the best set of brothers to have played the game.
The Stewarts had only begun to forge their identity at Manly when the club announced their greatest team of all time in 2006, but Mortimer believes the pair have achieved enough to warrant selection if the team was to be reselected.
‘‘I’m a huge fan of the Stewart boys, but in particular Glenn,’’ Mortimer said.
‘‘He’s such a crafty player and would sit well in the company of Manly’s greats like Terry Randall and Malcolm Reilly, who I played against, as well as Steve Menzies in their greatest team.
‘‘I wouldn’t want to say who would miss out but Glenn definitely is in the same category as those players. I also think the same with Brett Stewart in comparison with Graham Eadie.
‘‘Brett’s an incredible player.’’
Sam Burgess, arguably the most accomplished of the English quartet, said he could see the camaraderie between Brett and Glenn when he watches Manly games.
‘‘It’s hard to notice that connection they have when you’re playing against them, but when you watch videos of the game you notice the connection they have because they’re brothers,’’ Sam Burgess said.
‘‘They are very good. Glenn certainly is a quality forward and Brett’s an outstanding player.
‘‘They are two outstanding players in a great team.’’
Brothers who have won premierships together
Norm and Peter Provan (St George) 1958 and 1959
Gary, Mark and Graeme Hughes (Canterbury) 1980
Steve, Peter and Chris Mortimer (Canterbury), 1980, 1984, 1985
Kerrod and Kevin Walters (Brisbane) 1992 and 1993
Matthew and Andrew Johns (Newcastle) 1997
Brett and Glenn Stewart (Manly) 2008, 2011
Source: David Middleton