Why Eels skipper won’t budge from his beach ‘bubble’
He lives next door to Brad Parker, regularly catches up with Jake Trbojevic and gets advice from Brett Stewart every couple of weeks.
Sounds like a Manly first-grader?
No, it's Parramatta captain Clint Gutherson, who makes the 90km round trip from deep in Manly territory at Collaroy Plateau to Kellyville for Eels training.
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On Saturday he'll head to Bankwest Stadium to lead his ladder-topping Eels into battle against Manly.
But would Gutherson call his Manly mates "enemies"?
Off the field, definitely not.
"I've played against Jakey since I was in year 4 or year 5, he went to Mona Vale and I was at Cromer, we always had those games against each other," Gutherson said.
"But once we started playing rep footy, Harold Matts, SG Ball, he was always in my team, I got to debut (for Manly) with Jakey so that was pretty special for both of us .... it's a friendship you'll always have and it's a pretty special one."
Gutherson played his junior footy for the Cromer Kingfishers and rose through the Sea Eagles representative system.
There's no doubt he's bled blue and gold since 2016 but Gutherson can't imagine living anywhere else but over the bridge in the original rugby league "bubble''.
"All my mates are over there … it's still a massive part of my life, and my partners and families (lives)," Gutherson said.
"It's a small world on the beaches, it's a little bit of a bubble, but growing up there you just love it. I still catch up with a lot of them (Manly players)" Gutherson said.
Before COVID-19, Manly fans would often bump into the Eel swimming at Freshwater Beach or ordering coffee at his favourite cafe, The Drip, in Collaroy Plateau.
But how often does Gutherson get heckled at his local grocery store?
"All the time, they'll give a little niggle, get into me, but that's a part of it, it's the fun of it," Gutherson said.
"A lot of my friends still go for Manly, they've all been texting me this week, getting into me,
"But I've won the majority of games we've versed them, except one, we've got a good strike rate at the moment, and hopefully that continues."
The 25-year-old said Sea Eagles legend Brett Stewart has been integral to his development as a fullback and the pair remain in close contact.
"When I was 17, 18 coming through, he really took me under his wing and tried to show me all the dos and don'ts, he still calls me every couple of weeks to make sure I'm going all right and if I need anything," Gutherson said.
"I was speaking to him before the game (Parramatta's round 3 clash against Brisbane) and during the break, to see how he's going, it's not always about footy, there's more to life than that."
Last year, the Sea Eagles tried to lure Gutherson back to Brookie, but the fullback signed a three-year contract extension with the Eels and he hasn't looked back.
Gutherson will face arguably his toughest matchup of the season on Saturday - Tom Trbojevic.
Both teams are thriving under the NRL's new six-again rule.
"Tommy at the moment is probably the best in the game, I think he proved that on the weekend, you can't stop him, you've just got to try and limit him, so we've got a challenge on our hands" Gutherson said.
But the Eels skipper is confident his side will maintain their position on top of the ladder.
"The way our bench came on (in round three) and really didn't let anything slip they picked up the momentum for us … if our bench can come on and do that, week in week out, it's going to go a long way."
Originally published as Why Eels skipper won't budge from his beach 'bubble'