All goes to script

So here I am, sitting in my house in Melbourne, straight off the plane from a business trip to India, with a mate from England, ready to watch a game of footy between a team from Queensland that everyone in NSW hates playing a team from NSW that everyone in Australia (outside of Manly) hates. Who says this isn’t an international game?

I have an unusual soft spot for both teams. Despite being a boy from Brisbane, I grew up in a Bronco-less era so I adopted Manly as my team at the age of six having mistaken Manly’s maroon jerseys for traditional cane toad colours. I just thought these guys were from that bayside suburb of South East Brisbane that had a boat harbour and views of Moreton Bay and that Wynnum-Manly (where greats like Lewis, Miles and Dowling played in the mid-80s) was the name of another Brisbane suburb altogether.

By the time I’d learnt the error of my ways it was too late. I’d fallen in love with the likes of Noel ‘Crusher’ Kleal and Ronny Gibbs and I genuinely believed that Bobby Fulton walked on water.

Thanks to Barry Maranta and Paul ‘Porky’ Morgan, the Brisbane Broncos entered the NSWRL in 1988 to much fanfare in Brisbane and played their first game at Lang Park against the reigning premiers – the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. The Broncos, ironically led by former Wynnum-Manly greats Lewis, Miles and Dowling, smashed the Sea Eagles 44-10 in front of a respectable crowd of 17,000 people.

So here these teams are again at the same ground 23 years later. But this time there’s a sellout crowd of nearly 51,000 people on hand to watch the game and you could safely argue that half of these people have turned up to pay tribute to Darren Lockyer in the last regular season game of his illustrious league career.

The Broncos lineup faced a Manly team that had lost four players to suspension following the Battle of Brookvale against the Storm the week before. And early doors, the Sea Eagles looked they were still nursing headaches from that game as the Broncos applied early goalline pressure. The Broncos had a try disallowed in the first five minutes after Peter Wallace used Alex Glenn as an illegal battering ram and was pinged for obstruction. News got worse for the Broncos when fullback Josh Hoffman left the field with a knee injury.

Andrew McCullough finally turned all the pressure into points when the Bronco hooker took numerous defenders over the line with him to score in the 18th minute. Manly then blew one of their few clear chances for the half, dropping the ball when they looked certain to score. Minutes later, Wallace returned serve, kicking for the corner and the acrobatic Jharal Yow Yeh who plucked the ball “Folau-style” and planted the ball in the corner. Broncos 8-zip. Wallace doubled the kicking damage five minutes later with Matthew Gillett being on the end of another kick and the Broncos were out to an impressive 14-point lead.

And then came a cracking try that never was. The ball went swiftly through eight sets of Broncos hands (including Lockyer’s twice) and ended with Yow Yeh sliding over in the corner only for video judge Steve Clark to make a bewildering call declaring that Scott Anderson had fumbled the ball forward early in the movement. Someone had failed to give Clark the “Lockyer Tribute Game” script. The one saving grace from the decision being that Manly went in to the break with some slim chards of optimism trailing 14-0.

On the back of a Hasler haranguing at halftime, Manly began to turn the tide in the second half. Aided by a fifth tackle Daly Cherry-Evans bomb coming back off the Broncos crossbar, Manly only need one of their additional six tackles before all 118kg of Tony ‘T-Rex’ Williams leviathaned (a new verb I’ve patented to describe a T-Rex run) across the line. 120 seconds later, Cherry-Evans was over and in a blink of an eye, we had ourselves a 4-point ballgame. And then lady luck finally shone on the Horses, when yet another try from another monster Cherry-Evans cherry ripe skyscraper (do you think Daly is sick of this pun yet?) was disallowed with Steve Matai called offside from the kick. This Cherry-Evans kid is arguably rookie of the year in the NRL and was the only person keeping Manly in the contest.

Just over the hour mark and the Broncos were in again. A sublime cutout ball from Wallace put Beale through to extend the lead to 18-10. The Broncos were home. But then came a moment that may affect the rest of the Broncos finals campaign.

Oh Mr. Sam Thaiday – what were you thinking? Ray Warren said it himself, “How a season can change in a split second.” As the Battle of Brookvale will no doubt affect Manly’s finals campaign, this tackle (along with the Hoffman injury) will undoubtedly have ramifications for the Broncos heading in to Week 1 of the finals. Thaiday was reported for dangerously throwing Brent Kite over his shoulder and pitching him head first into the Lang Park turf. It didn’t look at all pretty as Kite staggered off to the sidelines.

Yow Yeh and Thaiday blew last minute chances but still the Broncos had done enough to afford Lockyer the send off he deserved. Lockyer will be back at Suncorp Stadium next week to take another curtain call against the Warriors, minus a couple of his key lieutenants.

BRISBANE 18 (Tries: Beale, Gillett, McCullough, Yow Yeh  Goals: Parker 1)
MANLY 10
(Tries: Cherry-Evans, Williams  Goals: Lyon 1)

Venue: Suncorp Stadium.
Crowd
: 50.859
Votes
: 3 – Wallace, 2 – Maguire, 1 – Cherry-Evans
Milestone:
Darren Lockyer’s last home and away game (353)

Comments

  1. Ian Hauser says:

    Huw,

    Interesting to see that we both picked the same three for “best players”, even if in slightly different order. Thankfully, from an Origin perspective, Cherry-Evans is a Queenlander and so, with Thurston and Cronk, provides the Maroons with quality and depth for several years to come. What’s more, Cherry-Evans is still probably growing and will become a halfback with a physical presence not unlike Andrew Johns. He’s certainly got the pace and the allround skills!

    At the other end of the spectrum, don’t you just have to like George Rose, even if he is from NSW and plays for Manly? He gives lots of park players hope if they’ve got the drive. I loved the look on his face (late second half) when he got barrelled by the comparative lightweight Beale. And shame on Williams for the one bad moment for Locky, “leviathaned” aside like a rag. (Great word creation, Huw.)

    I can’t say strongly enough that Foran is the key for Manly. Without him, guys like Matai, Lyon and the wide runners won’t get quality ball in good position to do the damage. So Cherry-Evans and Foran give Manly great options on both sides of the ruck.

    But, as a Queenslander, gee, I can’t stand Manly! ABM! ABM!!

  2. Ian Hauser says:

    I might seem a bit obsessed with Daly Cherry-Evans (I’m not really, just very impressed), so here’s abit more background courtesy of today’s “Courier Mail”:

    Troy Evans, his father, played hooker for Redcliffe Dolphins and Norths Devils in the 80s and early 90s. “He was always first into a brawl and a sometimes dubious tackling technique, which included elbows and stiff arms, led to many judiciary appearances.” (CM, p 91, 7.9.11)

    According to the same report, Dad Troy and son Daly actually played a game together in 2006 for Mackay Brothers, a game they won.

    Daly’s uncle, Steve Cherry, is a Dolphins legend from the 80s. A centre, he was unlucky to play in the same era as Mal Meninga, Gene Miles and Chris Close, and so the opportunity to play for Qld was not available.

    With a pedigree like that, no wonder the kid can play!

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