Almanac Rugby league – A long way from home

The finals are just two weeks away.  Brookie Oval is packed out for a Friday night cracker, first versus second on the ladder, one team undefeated after 12 games, the other undefeated at home for the season.

The teams with the best for-and-against in the comp, sharing a rivalry built up over recent seasons (one Grand Final belting apiece) and both with a point to prove: to themselves, the other side and David Gallop.

I’m a long way from Brookie – Hobart in fact – but I can just about smell the anticipation in the crowd and the waft of hurried durries being sucked on at the gates, feel the squashed bodies moving over for the next bum on the bleachers, see the desperate looking-about by those who’ve arrived just a little too late to find a decent patch of grass to sit on on the Brookie Hill, hear the throaty laughs and voices of those standing pressed tight in front of the two circa-70s stands.

Most people in Tassie don’t care much for League so other than finals and State of Origin, matches aren’t shown live.  But I’m not waiting for a delayed midnight showing tonight.  I drape my maroon and white scarf around me – the one worn at a deliriously happy 2008 Grand Final – and tune in to 2GB’s coverage via the web.

Five minutes in Robertson somehow keeps the ball in play when it looks like going into touch – three passes later it’s in the hands of Lyon on the other side, who bombs a kick towards the posts.  Foran races past the defence to grab a bouncing ball and plonk it down.  A packed Brookie roars into life.  Lyon converts – Manly 6-0.

The pressure on Melbourne mounts.  Manly are throwing and kicking the ball around fast, imaginatively, Andrew Moore commenting “they look half a metre faster than Melbourne!”  Lyon bursts into the clear 10 metres out only to get called back for a forward pass;  David Williams gets bundled into touch a few metres out; Slater desperately scrambles a kick over the dead-ball line.

And then Williams makes a run and dive for the line only to be held up by a wall of Storm defenders.  But something’s wrong, terribly wrong: the Wolfman has to be carried off on a stretcher with what could be a very serious neck injury.  Poor bugger.  Tony Williams moves out from the pack to the wing.

A minute or so later, Darcy Lussick is penalised in front of Melbourne’s goal for whacking Hinchcliffe.

A brawl starts – players come from all over the ground.  The heat settles and then the penalty gets reversed – Lussick has retaliated to an elbow to the face.  But Glenn Stewart and Adam Blair are sin-binned for running in.  Stewart dawdles off; Blair catches up to him, bodies him, mouths off.  Stewart hooks into him.

And then all hell breaks loose.  Players stream across the field, the Storm bench rises and moves in.

Eventually matters cool down and Stewart and Blair move up the race.  They’re called back and then sent back, this time for the rest of the match.  High drama.  There’s bound to be an investigation by the League – I’m left wondering what the fallout will be for both team’s premiership chances.  Lyon goes back and kicks the penalty goal awarded ten minutes earlier.  Manly 8-0.

The fifteen minutes or so of lost play from the fighting and the Williams injury haven’t affected Manly’s mojo: the mix of defensive pressure and creative attack continues.  A few minutes before half-time, Lyon sets up a break for Williams, who steams in for a try.  The conversion follows – Manly 14-0.

In the last minutes Melbourne finally mount a serious attack.  The siren goes and with the ball still alive, Robertson lays a perfect hit on the Storm ball carrier.  The crowd roars their appreciation then ups the noise levels in acknowledgement of a great team effort.  What a half!

On they come for the second half.  For the first fifteen minutes Melbourne play a more settled game, matching Manly in defence and attack, minimising the mistakes and poor decisions that marred their first half.  Slater has a try disallowed in the fifteenth minute for being way off-side.  A few minutes later the ball is up the other end.  Williams finds himself on the end of a chain of fast passes and over for his second try.  Lyon’s conversion attempt hits the post.  Manly 18-0.

And so it remains until the 80th minute, when Slater weaves around a weary Manly pack for a consolation try.  Widdop misses.  Manly 18, Melbourne 4.   Fan-bloody-tastic effort Manly!

I decide not to dwell on the ramifications of the punch-ups and injuries  and simply savour the midnight replay…ah.  You can take the boy outta Manly…

Manly 18   (Tries: T. Williams 2, K. Foran Goals: Lyon 3/4)
Melbourne 4  (Tries: Slater Goals: Widdop 0/1)

Crowd: 20,414

Adam Muyt




About Adam Muyt

Born into rugby league, found aussie rules, fell for soccer, flirts a little with union. Author of 'Maroon & Blue - recollections and tales of the Fitzroy Football Club' (Vulgar Press, 2006). Presently working on a history of postwar Dutch migrants and soccer in Australia.


  1. I forgot to give my 3, 2, 1:

    3: Hasler (great coaching!); 2: Lyon (superb leadership and play); 1: Cherry-Evans (wise, old head on young shoulders)


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