Nine years ago, when the 2009 season dawned, a young player with a big build and bushy eyebrows took the field. At 21 years of age he had his whole future ahead of him, one in which many spoke confidently about. In his debut season, he found himself playing a grand final – even scoring a try in the preliminary final to get the team there. Anyone who spoke of this young player knew that they would be speaking about him for a long time. He still had years ahead of him but was already playing like a matured, experienced player. He was a strong hitter, powerful defender and born leader. This was and still is Tim Mannah.
Even before his debut game in 2009, Mannah was a proclaimed leader. He was destined to wear the C next to his name and in 2013 it became a reality. Anyone you speak to however, would tell you that he was a leader way before the appointment of captaincy. He leads by example in every aspect of his life – football, faith and family.
When fans find themselves watching the Parramatta Eels, whether it be at home on the couch or at ANZ in the bleachers, they watch one of the most humble footballers captain their team. You’d struggle to find a player more relaxed, well-spoken and down to earth. A man who, at times, has had many reasons to break down however has always stood tall to set a strong example for his players. On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, I spoke to Tim as he drove home from training in preparation for their game in Darwin this weekend. With his wife and daughter waiting for him at home, he took time away from his schedule to talk about his leadership and despite my offer to avoid discussing the 2018 season, he couldn’t help himself. He’s a leader and needed to be a voice on behalf of his players. The captaincy for the Parramatta Eels is not a job Mannah takes lightly – he spoke so proudly of the role and reiterated continuously how grateful he is for the opportunity. With his pride however, comes burden. A burden in which he explains is inevitable and knows he doesn’t carry alone. During trying times such as now, he spoke so strongly about how captaincy is not as pretty as it may appear to be. It’s a burden to bear in the form of heartache while he watches his players, who he considers family, struggling during the difficult times. He knows and loves every player who pulls on the Parramatta jersey week after week so he knows how hard they are trying and how much they are hurting. The pain each player feels after a loss is amplified for Mannah. The captaincy itself does not burden Mannah, for he carries that proudly. The pain for his players burdens him. He wants to leave an impact on the lives of every player he captains and hopes they consider him a decent guy who helped them in their career. Every NRL captain wants to win a premiership. They want to lead their team down the tunnel and take the field for a grand final and to lift the trophy with their boys behind them. Mannah however, wants so much more. He wants to leave an impact on the lives of his players just as his leaders have left an impact on his life.
I questioned Mannah as to whether he was ever overwhelmed with the responsibility of being a leader and role model in the NRL and without hesitation or a hint of doubt he answered “no.” He further explained that the leaders in his life have shaped who he is as a person and the leader he has become. His role models set the example of the type of person and leader he should be and then the rest came naturally. When I asked who some of his leaders were, he spoke of his family as well as Joe Wehbe but specifically focused on Brian Houston – the creator of the Hillsong church. He describes Houston as a “natural leader” who he has been fortunate to sit under, learning and experiencing the power that he offers to anyone who will listen. Over the years, as Mannah was granted with the leadership responsibility at Parramatta, he learnt that everyone is called to be leader. All he had to do was answer. His faith, which is very important in his life, is something that has not only helped him stay grounded but also taught him to be a leader. He explained that “leadership and faith go hand in hand” so his life experiences through church and faith gave him a head start. Mannah was raised in a strong Christian family and together, they have turned to faith during the most difficult times in their lives.
Jon Mannah was more than a brother – he was a roommate, team mate and best friend. 5 years ago he left the world but left a legacy behind him which Tim has whole heartedly picked up. During the difficult lead up to Jon’s tragic passing, Tim found himself at peace. He turned to God for comfort in the belief that he would see his brother again and rather than saying goodbye forever to him, he was merely saying see you later. When the mourning period had passed and reality began to settle in, Tim wanted to take charge in change on behalf of his brother. With this motivation, The Mannah Foundation was formed. Tim led the way and with the assistance of the Parramatta Eels and Cronulla Sharks through the Johnny Mannah Cup, The Mannah Foundation boomed amongst the NRL community. A foundation created to honour the impact that Johnny had on the world through his tireless efforts in the community, The Mannah Foundation supports organisations and young people in creating positive change in their communities. The Mannah Foundation has partnered with youth-led charities, particularly Compassion Australia, to raise money for the less fortunate and those in need. Tim and his wife Stephanie have quietly been leading by example, making a difference in the world as they sponsor a child in Uganda to provide her a better lifestyle in difficult circumstances. With the work that has already been done and the impact already made, Tim has huge dreams for The Mannah Foundation. The pride, excitement and motivation in his voice as he speaks about the foundation created to honour his brother is undeniable. He spoke about how he wants to get his hands dirty and really indulge himself in the work and grow the foundation in ways he never could have imagined.
For nearly 20 minutes Tim and I went back and forth discussing the many aspects in his life in which he finds himself in a leadership position. Throughout the whole conversation, he provided insightful and humble responses however; it wasn’t until the tail end of our conversation that I truly saw his full heart. The moment I mentioned his daughter, he let out the first laugh of our conversation and I could see the pride beaming on his face through the phone. He describes fatherhood as the best thing he’s ever done. Quickly giving credit to his incredible wife Stephanie on the amazing work she does in raising their 14 month old daughter, he explains that he now understands why people say parenthood is the greatest thing that will ever happen to you. A new type of leadership, one in which he is still learning about as he goes, Tim hopes he can continue to provide leadership in his immediate family and jokes that he wants 30 to 40 more children. Something that Stephanie might have to agree to first though.
Tim Mannah was born to lead, perhaps in ways he still doesn’t realise. He leads by example in everything he does. Whether it be at the Parramatta Eels, at church, The Mannah Foundation or in fatherhood; he leads by example. In preparation for this article, in a cliché fashion, I researched motivational quotes about leadership. I came across a powerful, true depiction of Tim in the words of John Quincy Adams. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Every time Tim takes the field, he is inspiring not only current NRL players but young children still learning the game and instilling the dream of playing in their hearts. At church and in his everyday life as a Christian, Tim is inspiring many to learn more about their faith by leading by example. The Mannah Foundation is a push for people within the community to do more with their lives to help those who need it most and Tim leads that movement. Every single day Tim inspires others to dream, learn and do. He is a leader of the greatest kind.
If you have any interest in finding out more about The Mannah Foundation or would like to make a donation click here