Almanac Rugby League – An afternoon of hope

This assignment started out full of hope – what better thing to do than write about a Canterbury victory over Manly, especially at Brookvale.  Being almost out of finals contention five weeks ago, the Bulldogs had won three of the last four matches and were back in with a chance of finals glory.

To add to the optimism, the rugby league gods appeared to be smiling, allowing Frank Pritchard to escape from the judiciary without suspension.  There was a lot to like about my team’s chances and I was buoyed even further by the fact that Canterbury was the last team to taste victory at Brookvale Oval in round 26 of 2010.  The problem with reality though is that it bites!…and it has bitten this supporter quite a bit over the years.

My history of supporting the Berries (as they were known then) goes back over 40 years to a time when the NSW/Vic state border was the furthest south the NSWRL ventured.  As a regular visitor to Merimbula on NSW’s far south coast, I became interested in the local rugby league side that played in the blue and white strip.

When it came time to choose a team, I can recollect that Wests, Easts and North Sydney were all in the mix however, in a flash of brilliance, I deducted that buying a Canterbury jersey would let me support two teams for the price of one.  Of course, one thing I am thankful for with that choice is that my team, unlike the others who I was considering, at least still exists and is still known as Canterbury Bankstown.

There is a certain amount of resilience required in being a Doggies supporter.  I say this because we have had our fair share of troubles over the last decade….the salary cap scandal of 2002, the ‘off field dramas’ of 2004, the Willie Mason saga, the Sonny Bill Williams saga, the dispute with the Hughes family and then just recently the resignation of coach Kevin Moore.

Regrettably, I had only seen the Bulldogs live once this season….an ill-fated trip to the new AAMI stadium in Melbourne to watch Canterbury take on the other salary cap cheats, Melbourne Storm.  The less said about that game, the better, as Storm were in front within a minute of the start, before I had even had a chance to sit in my seat.

So with all this in mind, the season on the line and new coach Jim Dymock in charge, I settled down to watch us take on the hated Sea Eagles on a Sunday afternoon.  Things did not start at all well with Canterbury not only struggling to complete a set of six, but an early try to Manly’s David Williams right on the 14-minute mark started a sense of foreboding about what was to come.

This feeling was misplaced though as Josh Morris, with some grit and determination, crossed the try line twelve minutes later.  Then with the sin binning of Manly’s Kieran Foran, my spirits really started to lift.   Better was to come on the stroke of half time with Jonathan Wright crossing to give the Bulldogs an unlikely 10-7 half time lead.  The optimism from my lounge room seat was palpable with myriad thoughts racing through my mind and the soaring feeling that finals football was only a few weeks away.

Of course, like any good melodrama, it is a two act deal.  Whatever Des Hasler said to the Sea Eagles in the sheds during the half time break certainly worked as Glenn Stewart and then Jamie Lyon scored for Manly.  Cue sinking feeling which occurs all too regularly this season in Bulldog land.  Not to be outdone though, Canterbury within several minutes was back in with a chance with a try to Ben Barba and the Bulldog rollercoaster ride wasn’t finished.

“C’mon, this game is winnable”, we’re only three points down.  With fifteen minutes to play it was anyone’s game until the Dog’s players made a crucial error by anticipating a referee’s whistle when Josh Reynolds was clearly offside.  Both Reynolds and Andrew Ryan stopped and waited for the whistle.  Manly’s Steve Mattai didn’t though and he scampered to the line for, what proved to be, the match winning try.

27-16 – End of game……end of season.  A disappointing result given the half-chances we created and yes, there should have been a penalty try awarded to Canterbury when David Stagg was tackled by Kieran Foran before he took possession of the ball, but when I last studied maths, 27 still was more than 22!

So Bulldogs supporters, we await 2012 with interest.  Who will be the new coach? Who will take up the challenge and be the next Terry Lamb or Hazem El Masri? Will we make the finals? Will the club say sorry to the Hughes brothers?  Plenty of questions that can only be answered in time.  Best of all, the story is not finished and there is always a chance for more glory.  That is what I will be tuning in for each week!

MANLY 27 (Tries: D.Williams, G.Stewart, Lyon, Matai Goals: Lyon 5/5 Field Goals: Cherry-Evans 1/1)
CANTERBURY 16 (Tries: Morris, Wright, Barba Goals: Turner 2/3)

Venue: Brookvale Oval
3-D.Cherry-Evans, 2-J.Lyon, 1-J.Romelo

Mark Seymour


  1. Are Manly the most hated first grade club in the country bar none, even Collingwood, or for Croweaters with long memories, Port Adelaide?

    Admittedly, the hatred against Manly has softened somewhat in recent years, helped along in part by the arrival of the Brisbane Broncos and then the Melbourne Storm. Two new clubs – two successful clubs -to hate. But many RL followers of other clubs eventually paid a grudging respect to the Broncos for their culture and history of sustained success over twenty years, while Melbourne, at least up until last years scandal, also drew grudging praise from many for the way they played the game (on field at least).
    Manly, before the arrival of Des Hasler, had fallen in to a heap, forced into a dreadful shotgun merger with Norths then when that collapsed, followed it with several dud years on the field. Dessie’s approach has been straightforward and delivered the goods in spectactular fashion in 2008 before the team got the jitters again in 2009 and 2010. And now the team is back in contention.
    I suspect some RL followers could accept the credibility of the Manly side back in 2008…but having Manly successful yet again…well, it stirs up the old feelings, the old hatreds. Rather like Collingwood winning a premiership again – AFL followers of other clubs could tolerate one premiership but few want another.

  2. Alovesupreme says

    As an outsider, it always seemed to me that Manly was a perfect object of hatred, reinforced by geography and social class. In that, I think your comparison with Port Adelaide is more apposite (the class issue being turned on its head, but the location and its significance being of much greater consequence than for Collingwood). My Sydney relatives (St. George supporters) always emphasised how the game really “belonged” to those south of the harbour/river – Norths were rarely competitive enough to matter.
    You would be well aware of Roy Masters’ comedic appeals to his players at Wests in his fibros v Silvertails rants.

  3. Yes, Roy Masters was a crafty bugger who, in retrospect, freely acknowledged how silly his whole Silvertails V Fibros line was. A simple ‘class warfare’ approach that, while containing elements of truth, was way off the mark in so many ways. The Manly players had the same background as the Wests players – I remember Maxie Krilich was a plumber, Terry Randall a brickie, John Harvey worked in the Leagues club lugging barrels of beer up and down, soemone else was a cop and on and on it went.

    What Manly did have was a smart administration and very successful Leagues club that funded the player list (including lots of ‘imports.’). Success on the field fuelled success off the field, and on and on…

    Yes the Manly district is way different to the inner / middle western suburbs – that’s what you get when you’ve got plenty of bush and beaches instead of factories and plains. Doesn’t mean it didn’t – and doesn’t – contain people who’d find it offensive to be told the game they love doesn’t belong to them.
    I actually find it a very insulting comment! There are enough big houses along the Georges River and out west these days to refute any claims that the ‘wealthy’ of Sydney are confined to the northern beaches and harbourside suburbs.

    Certainly the area has changed since I lived there and it has become more obviously stratified but a simple drive around suburbs like Beacon Hill, Forestville, North Balgowlah and the like will reveal plenty of weatherboard 10sq places built in the early 60s and 70s. Many of these were occupied by refugees from the inner suburbs, escaping to a cleaner environment. And fair enough too.

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