Almanac Rugby League – Move out and play without fear

Manly Sea Eagles 22   Cronulla Sharks 12

7:00 pm, Monday 21st March

Brookvale Oval, Sydney

Paul Macadam


I’m moving out of home today. We’ll get to the match in a minute. I’ve lived in the Sutherland Shire for all of my conscious life, which is, frankly, far too long for anyone to spend here. I’ve also heard enough provincial expats throw their hometown under the 968 bus to know that I owe mine a more balanced assessment.


Man, it’s something else. I’ll have to show you around some time. Houses are positioned away from the street at distances a Sydneysider would only see elsewhere in Campbelltown, with backyards you could probably build an apartment block on (shh, don’t tell the government). Youth in the insular peninsula gives you a healthy distaste for self-importance. Directness – middle-class passive aggression notwithstanding – is valued above all. Pretension is rare and frowned upon in these parts. The flipside of this characteristic is a hostility towards the unfamiliar that ranges from the ugliness of December 2005, to a reverse snobbery concerning non-mainstream culture (“we’ll be right with Hughesy and The Block, thanks”).  A place that looks after its own without being much bothered about anyone else, the Shire is a idyllic place to spend years 0 to 17. It’s not such a nice place to spend years 18 to 35. I’m 24.


Since my discovery of rugby league in 1999, the Cronulla Sharks have been an instability in a world of constants. This tempestuous relationship is part of what makes me me, with all the catastrophic lows and dizzying middles dropped into the smoothie blender of my identity. When the John Lang era (1994-2001) ended without a premiership medal, or even a grand final, I cultivated a shell of pessimism which, while often blinding me to life’s possibilities, has given me a protective buffer against disappointments that otherwise might have done me in. The football part of a Sharks supporter’s mind (yeah yeah, I know the jokes) is an alternate universe where every plot leads to death, and someone else always gets the girl. The dangers of conflating personal fortunes with those of your team are well-documented, but for those of us who carry this mad thing into our adult lives, it’s so much more than a diversion. Sport is not primarily entertainment. If that were the case, I’d support the Warriors, or Melbourne, or Souths. Maybe even Manly.


Alright, onto the match. This visit to Brookvale Oval panned out much the same as many others I’ve seen: Cronulla don’t play notably well, Manly don’t either but win anyway. No NRL team has scored fewer tries across the last 10 years, and after last week’s destruction of the Dragons, familiar problems returned. The Sharks are proficient at getting into the attacking 20 metre zone, but mostly rubbish once they arrive there.


While coach Shane Flanagan excels in defensive organisation, he’s not as renowned for getting the best out of creative players. Holmes, through little fault of his own, was virtually anonymous out on the wing. That he scored with one of only four or five touches says a lot. As Phil Gould said on the twitter last year, get the ball to Valentine. Fullback would suit him better, but Ben Barba is there. To demote him to last season’s utility role would be to concede what I now strongly suspect: that Barba was signed on a panicky impulse. Jack Bird’s concussion from Martin Taupau’s lazily swining arm didn’t help, but considering how much time we spent parked just in front of their line, 12 points is a poor return. With the strongest Sharks squad in 14 years, and in a field with no clear frontrunners, Flanagan should be able to drive this side deep into September. If he can’t, it might be time for a change.


It’s well and truly time for me to change. Hopefully moving will help. Maybe I’m just moving my hang-ups to a new residence. I don’t know and I’m tired and I’ve already wasted so much time and and I hardly see you these days because this is the hand that has been dealt and our jobs are never done and doesn’t your balloon ever land? The inner-west beckons. Leaving my town behind, but not my club. Up the moving out Sharks.

About Paul Macadam

Songwriter under my own name, drummer for Library Siesta. Newly ecstatic Cronulla tragic who also loves Liverpool because life wasn't meant to be easy. Too slow for the wing, too skinny for the second row.


  1. Adam Muyt says

    You were brave to venture to watch this match given the pain Manly has inflicted on Cronulla over the years. Two Grand Final losses, numerous semi defeats and something like 33 losses out of 39 visits to Brookie since ’67. Weird thing is, Cronulla have often put up a really good effort against the Sea Eagles before succumbing to them.

  2. Yeah – I was initially trying to compare this match to specific Manly vs Cronulla meetings from recent years, but the Brookvale defeats are mostly so similar that they’ve all sort of blended into one.

  3. kath presdee says

    I think I went to Brooky once and witnessed a miracle – I think it was the draw. I remember Matthew Ridge missing a very gettable goal. It’s so long ago I’ve forgotten it.

    Enjoy living outside the Shire. It’s helpful to keep your immunisations up for visits to the familial home but usually if you mention the name of the school you went to, you’ll be fine whenever you cross the Georges River.

  4. andy frame says

    With all the recent column inches and acknowledgement from all contact sports about the sanctity of the head, I was originally baffled at how Manly managed to keep 13 men on the field. I mean, Bird had dropped the ball and was actually looking behind him to see where it had gone when he was coathangered. Then I remembered. Of course, it’s bloody Brooky isn’t it?
    We should have had at least 3 tries by the first half hour, but we are Cronulla after all and could still only manage 8 points. Why, oh why is it that…..oh yeh, bloody Brooky.
    I’ve never been there to watch a game, but some years ago I was heading out to a friend’s place in Dee Why and drove past the ground. I rolled the window down and flipped the finger.
    Bloody Brooky.
    P.S. I remember that draw Kath. Les ‘Bundy’ Davidson crashed over under the posts in the dying minutes to lock it all up at 22 apiece. I’m sure we managed a win there under Johnny Lang once too.

  5. Kath: Thanks – I’m gradually settling into the new place, and will be sure to carry Shire documentation with me at all times to appease the authorities. “It’s so long ago I’ve forgotten it” rings true and close to home – I’m hoping that my writing these things on a weekly basis will help my recollection of the matches in years to come!

    Andy: I agree, and any suspension handed out to the player is of no use at all to the team who was disadvantaged by the illicit tackle. Only teams playing Manly in the next 3 or 4 weeks will benefit. Should’ve, could’ve… recurring words for the Sharks unfortunately. I appreciate that Brooky bird-flip gesture. Must remember to do it myself some day.

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