Almanac Rugby League – A Day for Darren

Tickets for this match sold out weeks beforehand, in fact well before I was asked to review it for the Almanac. So I watched on the big screen in the lounge after an earlier sumptuous lunch. With pen and paper poised and radio on hand to get comments from ABC Grandstand, I was up for last round action.

Call me hard to please if you want to, but I’m not sure if the Brisbane v Manly game told us all that much that we didn’t know already. In the end, its main contribution to the round and the year was to provide a showcase for the last home and away match for the great Darren Lockyer.

A Broncos minor round home ground record crowd of 50,859 rolled up for the occasion, a turnout befitting a player of Locky’s longevity and stature in the game.

The match itself was cruelled as a contest by the events of the previous week, the so-called “Manly Stoush”, and its fallout at the judiciary. Instead of a ding-dong, head-to-head clash of second versus third for some street cred leading into the finals, we got a fairly formulaic game that reached no great heights as a spectacle and which cost Brisbane the loss of two key players, Hoffmann to injury and Thaiday to suspension.

In fact, you could almost say that Many had a “win” of sorts – they gutsed it out when it would have been easy to roll up, play safe, accept an honourable loss and go home to prepare for next week’s final; they suffered no major injuries; they showed that there’s plenty of spirit and talent at Brookvale and they showed that, at full strength, they’ll play deep into the finals, possibly on GF day.

The story of the game was pretty simple: Broncos dominate early but a courageous Manly holds out for almost 20 minutes before the inevitable; Broncos score three tries in 15 minutes and almost a magical fourth just before half-time. Manly gets a bit of luck early in the second half and races in two quick tries and almost a game-threatening third; Broncos steady and get the winner with a quarter of an hour to go.

The match reminded us that straight, hard-running forwards gain good yards and make space for creative backs; that Daly Cherry-Evans and Jack Reed are the finds of the season; that Peter Wallace may be a replacement for Locky at five-eighth; that that fickle commodity called momentum seems to be alive and well in the modern game; that Matt Ballin is a very under-rated player; that both teams have heaps of young talent that bodes well for the next few seasons; that there is still enough leeway in today’s highly controlled and structured game to allow for a huggy bear like George Rose.

We learned that Josh Maguire is something special and has a big future, injury permitting; that Andrew McCullough is developing greater maturity and selectivity in his play; that Manly lose a lot of their sting in attack and defence if Kieran Foran isn’t on the field; that Gerard Beale should play for NZ later this year; that the “no fun police”, aka the video ref, probably got two “no try” decisions technically correct (Yow Yeh and Matai) but could have rewarded adventurous attacking play with at least “benefit of the doubt” calls; that Darren Lockyer’s address in Roma was 3a Lovell Street.

Genuine highlights were few and far between. Wallace’s kicking game close to the tryline was pinpoint in its accuracy, and his precise pass to Beale for the match winner was all class; Yow Yeh’s leap, catch and pirouette to score was all balance and finesse; Maguire’s powerful running netted him over 200 metres; Ballin’s step to the right and switch pass for the Williams try completely bamboozled the defence; Cherry-Evans ran the ball, passed, kicked, backed up, tackled, schemed – a strong, allround performance in a losing team.

But, in the end, it was all about Locky and that’s probably how it should have been. He got what he deserved – a huge crowd, a win, and the key to the City of Brisbane. It may well be a cliché, but he has been an ornament to the game.

BRISBANE BRONCOS 18 (Tries: McCullough, Yow Yeh, Gillett, Beale. Goals: Parker 1/4)
MANLY SEAGULLS 10 (Tries: Williams, Cherry-Evans. Goals: Lyon 1/2)

Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Crowd: 50,859
Votes: 3 – Maguire (Broncos), 2 – Wallace (Broncos), 3 – Cherry-Evans (Manly)
Milestone: Darren Lockyer’s 353rd and last minor round game




About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at


  1. Georgie Rose is already a cult hero at Manly and dubbed many affectionate things by fans. But no one’s yet called him a ‘huggy bear’. Until now! You’ll have me chuckling every time he takes to the field during the finals.

  2. Andrew Jaensch says

    My favourite time of the radio day is after the 7.30am weekday news weather. That’s when I get to listen to Warwick Hadfield’s blending of sport with wit and pathos.

    Well, Warwick, you now have a rival for my sporting journo attention. Beautifullywritten Ian!

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