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Primeval - Silvertails' Grand Final Review

Discussion in 'Rugby League Forum' started by Matabele, Oct 7, 2008.

  1. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

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    Part of the astonishing resilience of rugby league comes from the passion and ownership of its tribal supporters.  For these tribesmen (me included) the support of one’s team goes well beyond a passing interest in weekly results.

    Manly Warringah has become a part of my identity over the years.  The club name, emblem, colours and club culture interwoven into soul which means that there is an incredible emotional investment in their successes and failures.

    The extent of my investment became immensely apparent to me on Sunday night, jittering nervously under my “we are the silvertails” banner, fingernails chewed until my fingers bled, my two sons beside me sucking shirts and pensive. 

    We all yelled and screamed as Manly strode to victory, but for me there were three moments where this vocal barracking entered an almost other-worldly sphere, a great guttural bellowing from deep within that was more than excitement. 

    It was a primeval scream elicited from the depths of my being and giving vent and expression to the terrible lows our club has endured since we last tasted Premiership success in 1996.

    Let us consider:

    The travesty of 1997: There are few Manly supporters that have watched this injustice of a Grand Final in the eleven years since it was held, and it’s status as “one of the great Grand Finals” grates to the extent I grind my teeth every I hear it.

    In reality we had our own hooker cruelly suspended prior to the game, several blatant forward passes in the lead-up to Newcastle tries are burned in memory and then there was the disgraceful stomping incident where a testosterone-fuelled Adam MacDougall planted his studs in the face of our captain courageous without penalty. 

    The fade-out of 1998/99:  If having the 1997 premiership stolen through poor officialdom wasn’t bad enough we then endured the poorest of starts in 1998 at the same time as the explosive revelations of institutionalized 1997 drug-cheating broke out of Newcastle.  Morally the 1997 premiership should be given to Manly.  We won’t hold our breath. 

    A late season winning run saw us fall over the line into the ten-place finals series which gave us the dubious “privilege” of an appointment with the Raiders on a cold and frosty night in Canberra. 

    That hater of all things maroon, Hollywood Harrigan, with his flowing locks and too-tight shorts caned us in the penalty count that night and we exited limply.  Little did we know it would be our last taste of finals football for seven long years.

    With talk of rationalization in the wind throughout 1999 our on-field fortunes hit a 1990s low as we staggered along in the bottom third of the competition ladder.  It was a very bad and concerning time to be a poorly-performed entity with selection criteria being spruiked on a daily basis in the newspapers and four teams about to be culled. 

    The joint venture: And so it came about that the rationalization talk spooked us into a shotgun wedding with chronic under-achievers and hated enemy, the North Sydney Bears. 

    Some people remember where they were when Lady Diana died.  I read of our joint venture plans when I purchased a copy of the Weekend Sydney Morning Herald at a service station in Narrabri, driving north for a holiday in Queensland where there was little sympathy for the silvertails.

    Two weeks later the Saturday papers were filled with the news of Souths’ execution from the competition. 

    What followed were three years of abject humiliation.  Pre-merger talk was that we would create an invincible squad with a combination of players from Manly and Norths.  What the paper talk didn’t understand is that a winning team is more than the sum of seventeen talented players.

    Team success is built on the bedrock of the club’s culture.  Manly’s success has always been built on the playing groups’ legitimate love and loyalty for the club.,  It helps that we have the most desirable postcode in Rugby League and therefore find it easier to keep our players happy and away from unnecessary distractions.

    But for three to five years this “love Manly” culture was submerged under the weight of North Sydney’s tolerance for abject mediocrity and our lack of a spiritual home as we were forced to play half our games before the ritual humiliation of an uneducated Central Coast crowd that took great delight in cheering for our opponents.

    I confess that during this period, on the surface at least, I became one of those that paid passing weekly interest to the team’s fortunes and found a sudden interest in the Super 12. 

    But this apparent ambivalence masked a deep-burning anger at what had been foisted on my passion and a growing fear that I would soon be watching the NRL with no investment at all because it was bereft of my team.

    In reality, for those three years the NRL was indeed bereft of Manly and was far the poorer for it.

    The darkness of the valley of death: It was a beautiful sunny day when I took delivery of a shirt that had “Get ready” emblazoned across the front and “Manly is back” all over the back.

    But it covered a heart open to a nagging fear that announcing the last rites on the Bears and the joint venture was a pyrrhic victory. 

    In 2003 we still had a coach that knew nothing of our culture and a playing group that largely consisted of the scraps from the benches of other teams’ reserve grade outfits.

    We surprised enough teams to keep our proud avoidance of the wooden spoon intact, the best being a game I managed to attend where we won the first golden point game in the NRL over hated arch-rivals, the Eels. 

    But the back end of that year was highlighted by week after week of successive 50 point drubbings, the most embarrassing being when a twelve man Canberra still managed 50 points on us at our once-proud citadel of Brookvale Oval.

    We entered 2004 with a favourite son back at the helm in Des Hasler.  At least we had a coach that understood our culture, but how on earth were we to avoid the wooden spoon with a side that was once again cobbled together at the last minute from the discards of everyone else?

    At this time the Hoodoo Gurus were singing their irritating ditty “That’s my team” which included the line “to see my team fulfill a Premiership Dream”. 

    To me the thought of Manly fulfilling the dream of winning a game seemed lamentable, let alone featuring on the big stage on the first Sunday in October.

    2004 included the blackest of nights where I watched the Wallabies beating the Springboks in a Tri-Nations game with a radio pressed against my ear bearing the dreadful tidings of the Penrith Panthers inflicting our-then greatest ever hiding.

    But there were also some points of light.  Despite some scare-mongering the club privatized.  It was an inevitable step.  Without privatization there is no doubt Manly would have limped to a weary collapse within two to three years.

    And two top line players (Ben Kennedy and Brent Kite) showed enough faith in the club to knock back big offers from elsewhere to become our first big name signings in nearly a decade.  The BK initials would be the impetus for a remarkable resurrection.

    The candle keeps getting snuffed out:  Our northward trajectory began in 2004, but there were still moments where it looked like the candle of hope was still perilously close to extinguishment.   

    Finally in 2005 we made it back to finals football, falling over the line into eighth place and a Parramatta Stadium flogging by our hated Eels rivals.

    That day I witnessed one of my favourite moments of Manly bravado when a rather inebriated Manly fan stood on his chair in front of a bay of jubilant Eels supporters with the score 20 points against us.

    He launched into a stirring tirade of Manly’s superiority whilst the Parra horde bayed for his blood which was inevitably drawn when security ejected him from the ground. 

    All of us in maroon that day were subjected to mocking taunts, though at least we could console ourselves with smug satisfaction when the Eels collapsed to their inevitable September choke a fortnight later.

    But the afternoon did show the gaping chasm between our own middle of the table straights opposed to the top flight. 

    Though we signed Orford and Bell from Melbourne, the gap was again glaringly highlighted when the Dragons pounded us 28-0 (and their fans pounded us post-game) in September 2006 and we said a sad farewell to Ben Kennedy.

    But within Kennedy’s farewell lay a kernel of hope that our winning “love Manly” culture was well and truly restored.  Kennedy played for three clubs and spent seven years at Newcastle that included a Premiership. 

    Yet after just two years on the Northern Beaches, Kennedy declared himself a Manly man and committed to mentoring our next crop of forwards.  A conversion experience nearly as astonishing as one that happened on a road to Damascus.

    2007 Grand Final:  Despite predictions of a decline following Ben Kennedy’s departure, our team stormed into the 2007 Grand Final and we dared to hope.

    We shouldn’t have. 

    I paid $155 to sit on the halfway line a million miles away from the action and witnessed a severe throttling that made our hopes of fulfilling that Premiership Dream as remote as I was from the action.

    The Hoodoo Gurus sang their dirge for the final time and metaphorically a rampant Melbourne side did to Manly what Crocker physically did to Brett Stewart on the night.

    So twelve months later I opted for the cheap seats to at least witness the 2008 decider with the maroon and white army – the vociferous and proud supporters who this time could sniff that this would be the night when the phoenix would finally rise from the ashes. 

    This time I also bought my two boys with a rationale that if Manly were to get up on the night, it would create a transcendent memory for them that would last a lifetime. 

    What I didn’t expect were the afore-mentioned three transcendent moments of my own where my primeval roaring gave vent to the frustrations and turmoil of the previous twelve years.

    The first roar came with the opening try to Matt Ballin.  This roar was about the realization that the try from a young but not over-awed player meant that this night we would not be stood over by a finals opponent as had happened the previous three years. 

    The second came when Brent Kite crashed over directly in front of where we were sitting to put the score on the board that would make it impossible for Melbourne to stage a recovery.  This was the moment where the Premiership dream became a certainty.

    How fitting for Kite to make that score.  His faith in signing with us in the dark depths of 2004 is often overshadowed by Kennedy’s signing at the same time.  But Kite’s impact and legacy on our club will be longer lasting, particularly next season when he inherits that mantle of elder statesman that has been Beaver’s for a decade.

    So on to the final roar – and the one that also bought tears to the eyes.  The only constant for Manly over the last twelve years has been Steve Menzies.  The character he showed by remaining with us through the hardest years of the club’s history and in the face of tempting offers from the high-flyers is indescribable.

    When Beaver crashed over it completed the fairytale, and I defy anyone to name a player in the history of the game that has been more deserving of a fairytale than Steve Menzies. 

    How we all enjoyed the bubbling euphoria of the trophy presentation, the victory lap and the wild scenes of jubilation at the club after the game.

    Many words of thanks have been said in the Premiership postscripts.  The players thanked each other and the fans (a really nice touch) and Des Hasler thanked his staff.

    Yet to my ears there was one thank you that was not really made publically, though I am sure it has been said many times privately, which is perhaps more fitting and appropriate.

    But if the fans were allowed a rostrum to make known their thoughts on this Premiership success I am sure they would make mention of the investment, nay the donation, made by Max Delmege and Scott Penn over the past four years.

    None of the redemption of the past few years would have been possible without this financial expression of the “love Manly” culture, the faith they showed in the club to rebound from the depths and the largesse required to make it a possibility.

    If I may be so bold as to speak on the fan’s behalf, thank you Max and Scott. 
     
  2. DVS Matt

    DVS Matt Well-Known Member 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    great read Mata

    we certainly have come a long way!!!!
     
  3. The Wheel

    The Wheel Well-Known Member

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    Your a champ Mata - very emotional reading this.  I too remember those days watching Manly getting flogged at our home ground - apart from the canberrra loss there was also the day the Bulldogs put a huge score on us and the Brookie Hill has taken over by the scum dog fans watching El Marsi go for the world record for consecutive goals.

    As I sat there embarassed & humilated I said to myself that these dark days will make the good ones in the future so much more sweeter.  I didn't know whether the golden days would years or decades away but I knew they would return.

    Last years GF just made that desire even stronger, that it is why I and all Manly fans enoyed the weekend so much!!

    My heartfelt thanks to everyone involved, Players past & present, owners, coaches, staff, fellow Manly fans - it was a special day.
     
  4. Canteen Worker

    Canteen Worker Well-Known Member 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Fabulous stuff Mata. Being a Manly fan has been a roller coaster. In my youth, it was a total disaster if we didn't make the last three in the comp so to go to 99 and what happened over the next five years was like a journey through hell.  To be back on top is something I questioned if it would ever happen.
     
  5. Bradza

    Bradza Well-Known Member 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Thanks Mata for so eloquently and comprehensively and accurately summing up the thoughts that have been whirling around in my head since I lay there trying to get to sleep on Monday morning.

    It is scary but perhaps not so surprising that you have captured this so well. I'm sitting here at work with a tonne of urgent issues to be attended to but still checking out the Silvertails site when I shouldn't be. On top of hiding that indiscretion I have also had to now try and subtley hide a couple of tears that rolled down my cheek when reading that piece.

    I know you pride yourself on articulate writing and from someone who has a similar appreciation I give you a perfect 10.

    I would love it if you could send that note on behalf of the fans to both the club and to the Delmege & Penn families.

    I starkly remember sitting outside a pizza place in West Gosford before a game at the time the joint venture was starting to fall apart. Hadley was interviewing Ian Thompson and my wife Melissa turned to me and said in a pleading and sad voice "are we (the club) going to be all right?" I bravely said yes as I did on the other twenty occassions that she asked the same question through the next couple of years. My belief was that there were too many people who cared too much about the club to ever let it die. Without Max it probably would have died but then he is part of that group!


    thanks
    David
     
  6. CliffyIsGod

    CliffyIsGod Well-Known Member

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  7. Fro

    Fro Well-Known Member

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    Waaay to much time on your hands :)

    Good stuff mate.
     
  8. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

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    I have sent a copy to Grant Mayer so hopefully he knows what to do with it.

    thanks for the kind sentiments everyone!

    (Fro, I couldn't sleep last night until this article was in draft form.  Happens sometimes).
     
  9. Fro

    Fro Well-Known Member

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    I watch TV or read a book :)

    Or watch my DVD copy of Sunday nights game :)
     
  10. Utility Player

    Utility Player Well-Known Member

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    That about sums up the day for me and why it was so important to me to attend this game.

    The memories of hugging & high fiving strangers in maroon and white, chanting Manly, Beaver and at one stage Crocker takes it up the arse will be with me forever.

    The best part was sharing the day with my son who although a Warriors fan is slowly starting to see the light.

    Was good to meet a few of the regulars as well.
     
  11. DSM5

    DSM5 Well-Known Member 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Great read Mata.  Yeah they were tough times.  Sometimes one forgets just how far we've come since the disgusting events of 97.  My youngest locked herself away and wept for hours after that dark day.  It just made the loyalty and the hatred even stronger.  I remember assuring her that restoration would be coming and to remain loyal and true.  Sunday made it all the more worthy, a record win against a cheating, lying, bunch of dog players. We were up amongst the Storm under 20s on Sunday giving it to them.  Don't know how that happened really.  An isolated bunch of true believers pouring it on.  All of them, dressed up in their purple shirts,  left before the last quarter.  We gave it to  them as they slunk off.  Wonderful.  Many more years of gold to come. 
     
  12. silver

    silver Active Member

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    Great article Mata.  Your summation was spot on and brought back many memories - many mostly negative from the past 10 years.  The grand final of 1997 still haunted me, but alas last Sunday night,  the years of dissapointment faded away.  To finally see a pro-Manly at a GF is a moment I will never forget.

    I believe that any new stands at Brookie moving forward should pay some sort of recognition to the Delmege and Penn families for saving our mighty and beloved Eagles arses!!!!!

    Bring on 2009....
     
  13. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

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    Speaking of stands, we should have booed at Rudd all the louder on Sunday night to let him know our displeasure at the Federal government holding out on the funds needed to give the northern beaches an adequate sports facility. 
     
  14. DSM5

    DSM5 Well-Known Member 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    What about nude public whippings of Abbott and the ugly little liberal dwarf woman from Warringah, name escapes me.  Eight years of Howard and they put nothing into their electorates.  Disgraceful.
     
  15. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

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    I don't think Abbott would consider that punishment in any shape or form. 
     
  16. lsz

    lsz Well-Known Member Staff Member 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Great read

    I remember going to a game after we got a flogging (it might have been after the Penrith debacle) when we came out and touched up an Andrew Johns Knights

    If you had said to me back then we would win the comp in a few short years I would have laughed in your face. The feeling of being at the ground on Sunday night is something I will never forget
     
  17. Canteen Worker

    Canteen Worker Well-Known Member 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Lsz - it was the Knights at Brookie and it was a massive turnaround. We also played ST G that season a few weeks later when they were good and we dusted them as well. It was a start of the long way back. In those days, with Andrew Walker, we could score 30 each week but we conceded 50!!!!
     
  18. Matabele

    Matabele Well-Known Member

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    ummm..... I think you're forgetting the last 20 minutes of that game where they scored 26 to beat us?
     
  19. lsz

    lsz Well-Known Member Staff Member 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Was that beaver's 250th game?
     
  20. Kiwi Eagle

    Kiwi Eagle Moderator Staff Member 2016 Tipping Competitor

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    Great read, especially when we cast our minds back to the aftermath of Round 2, and that popped up on occassions during the year

    Hasler couldn't coach, Lyon was an overpaid hack, Matai was ****, Orford was a choker that didn't have what it took for a premiership, Watmough was crap and Bryant almost the worst prop in the NRL

    The way the team binded together through all the rubbish thrown at them from the experts in the media, and gave the most comprehensive display in history. Was an absolute pleasure to be sitting there watching, and sing the songs after the match

    I arrived back home to some terrible news, and the Manly boys will never know how much that win means to me during this time and is helping me through
     

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