Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 23: Wests Tigers v Manly – Bucket list one shorter!

We all have some sort of bucket list as sport fans that we’d like to accomplish. Many will never realise the dream for varying reasons, usually financial or due to poor health. Others may show curiosity over what is happening but because of an allegiance to a particular code thinking that it’s the only game worth following they’ll never see the other side of the fence so to speak. True sports fans however will find time to experience the joys of what sport can sometimes be all about.


Which brings me to Sunday afternoon, a day which continued the crappy weekend I had been having (I’ll touch on the local footy shortly, and the City2Surf was doomed when my calf issues were re-aggravated during the warm up so how I finished in a few ticks over 1:30 is a miraculous mystery) but a day that at the same time provided a chance to tick off another bucket list item. I’ve watched NRL games before at the bigger venues, finding myself lost in a “crowd” of 10000 for a game at the Olympic Stadium and shivering through nights and days next door to the SCG. But this would be possibly the one chance I had to pop into famous Leichhardt Oval to see top level rugby league on a sunny Sunday Afternoon parked on a patch of famous hill.


Sure the crowd only numbered 12000 on the day when the ground could hold closer to 20000 (the Keith Barnes stand, best equated to the old Past Player’s stand at Kardinia Park, was sparsely populated), but it was an ideal number. If the crowd was closer to 15000 there probably wouldn’t have been the chance to sit down on the grass or see the youngsters able to express themselves rather than be confined to plastic and concrete. Yes there were folks standing at the back of the mound closer to the back fence under the tree, but most of them were suitably attired. The setting sun proved an obstacle for periods of the first half, but when games start at 4:15PM (for those who don’t watch NRL regularly Channel 9 games generally start later than usual to fit in a promo for World’s Random Police Blockhead Singers or some other half baked reality concept) sunset does tend to turn afternoon delights into the still of the night. I wasn’t game enough to try my luck at the food vendors, or for that matter the bloke selling hot dogs outside the ground on the way in and out, but the cans were flowing from the few bars at the ground including under the old manual scoreboard whose clock failed to function.


I recall upon finding my patch that I was in so many ways making the comparison to Whitten Oval, which in so many ways is flawed considering that the outer was terraced when The Kennel was the intimidating venue for opposition teams as Leichhardt generally is considered. It wasn’t quite Ted Whitten walking the back streets into the ground for his last game, but the kilometre hike from the light rail stop to the ground probably seemed more like Windy Hill or Victoria Park passing the old style homes reminding us how adjacent to suburbia the ground really is. One thing that is certain is that the atmosphere wasn’t manufactured as it probably has to be in the big stadiums. The Tiger faithful for most of the second half did everything to help their team across the line, and not one security guard was called upon, not one theatre going acquaintance made a complaint about cheering too excessively (which to them would be more than mere applause), and save for the Manly contingent all went home delighted with the result.


The game itself looked to be a formality for the visitors at half time, having absorbed a fast paced start from the Tigers to lead 20-6. Yet they didn’t look as though they wanted to be there based on body language coming onto the field in either half, and defensively they were poor when goal line defence needed to be strong allowing the home side back into the contest. In the end despite the harbingers of Kentucky Fried being called upon a late try saw the cellar dwellers dent the top 4 aspirations of Manly, and based on 60 minutes of the game it was a well earned victory confirming a reputation that the ground was hard for visiting sides to come and escape with the win.


As for the next bucket list item to tick off, I’m not certain when that will come or where it will be given most of the other scheduled events are at locations and occasions that won’t be new to me. All I know is that it may not match the passion of the Tiger faithful heading home with Eye of the Tiger blasting out of the stereo being sung with as much skill as a drunk karaoke singer thinking they’re Kenny Rogers.


WESTS TIGERS 30 (Taylor, Sue, Naiqama, Lolohea, Watene-Zelezniak tries, Lolohea 5 goals) DEF MANLY 26 (Uate 2, Cherry-Evans 2, Perrett tries, Wright 3 goals)

About Mick Jeffrey

32 Year Old, Bulldogs Member and tragic. Reserve Grade coach after over 225 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 11 time Marathon finisher, one time Ultra Marathon finisher and Comrades Marathon competitor 2017.

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