Add Lyon to the mix and see the sparks fly

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DVS Matt

THE man at the centre of the most vicious controversy between Manly and Parramatta believes the NRL has made a massive blunder by appointing Tony Archer to referee the potentially explosive clash today at Parramatta Stadium where 20,000 Eels fans will be baying for Jamie Lyon's blood.

Greg Hartley, who attracted howls of protests from the Eels for infamously awarding a try to Manly on the seventh tackle in their 1978 knockout semi-final win, was adamant the game's leading whistleblower Steve Clark should be in control of the round's most hostile game. Instead, Clark will be at Suncorp Stadium for the game between Brisbane and Cronulla.

"I cannot for the life of me understand the appointment of Tony Archer," Hartley told The Sun-Herald."It's an important point. This game should have been given to the referee with the most authority and that's Steve Clark. You are going to need a strong referee for this game.

"It's not like the old days when there was the traditional softening-up period and things could really get out of hand, but it's still going to be a very heated game.

"The players have to be more cautious now because the judiciary system doesn't miss much, but Clark should be there."

Manly versus Parramatta. It's been something special since 1947.

It's been so sacred that not even Super League could kill it. It's been so passionate that their clash at Parramatta Stadium last year turned into one of the most vicious games of the season when Fuifui Moimoi was sent off - by Clark - for clobbering Brent Kite in a high tackle. Come 3pm, there will be a raucous full-house atmosphere, electricity, history.

"We know it's a big game," Manly warhorse Michael Monaghan said.

"They've got a great pack of forwards but so have we. Both teams are going well and that's what you need for a real rivalry. They've got firepower in the backs but so have we.

"You like to think it's no more important than any other game and that the week after will mean just as much. We saw what Brisbane did last year. They showed everyone how important it is to have momentum going into the finals. We need to keep building towards that but we know what the fans at Parra are like, what kind of reception we'll get and, I suppose, it's hard to say it's just like any other game."

Eels supporters hate Lyon for leaving the club when he fled the NRL in 2004.

All would have been forgiven had he returned to the Eels after his stint with St Helens in the English Super League but, instead, he went to the dark side: Manly.

The hostile reception he receives in his first visit back to Parramatta Stadium will be enough to wake the dead. His every touch will be accompanied by cries for him to be smashed. His opposite number, Brett Finch, will niggle him, as he should. The atmosphere at kick-off will lift you from your seat.

"It's water off a duck's back to Jamie," Monaghan said. "Nothing fazes him much. He'll just go out and play footy. He knows he's going to get a bit of a reception but he's a country boy and he'll just do what country boys do - roll up his sleeves and play."

The Manly-Parramatta glory days were in the 1970s and '80s.

Both had wall-to-wall superstars - Brett Kenny, Peter Sterling, Ray Price, Max Krilich, Noel Cleal, Graham Eadie, and more.

Now there's Jarryd Hayne, Timana Tahu, Nathan Hindmarsh, Brett Stewart, Steve Menzies and more. They're both premiership contenders and the gloves are off.

Manly won the 1976 grand final 13-10 when Eels winger Neville Glover infamously bombed what could have been a matchwinning try.

Two years later, Manly sneaked home on the back of Hartley's poor count. Parramatta exacted their revenge by winning the 1982 and '83 deciders and the whole thing was so explosive that Tooheys made their famous ad: "Here we go again, Manly and Parra, Manly's well ahead but the gap starts to narra c"

The Eels haven't lost at home to the Sea Eagles for 10 years.

They have the referee they want in Archer. Not because of Hartley's belief that he may lack the control to rein in any special attention directed at Lyon, but because they've won six of their last seven matches under him at home.

Referees boss Robert Finch denied Archer had been given any special instructions on how to handle a game which could go off.

Right off.

30 years of drama and heartache
The biggie. Parramatta winger Neville Glover dropped the ball, costing Parramatta a try and probable victory in what would have been their first grand final triumph. Manly won 13-10 and after years of torrid battles, the rivalry between the two clubs went to a new level.

Their first stoush was a 13-all draw. Parramatta were on their way to the grand final with a 13-3 lead, back when tries were worth only three points, but the Sea Eagles clawed their way back to force a replay three days later. Manly won 17-11. Eels officials complained bitterly about Greg Hartley's refereeing after a 7-1 second-half penalty count in Manly's favour. They were outraged when it was revealed Hartley had awarded the matchwinning try on the seventh tackle.

In the last match on the famous old ground, a monster crowd watched a true nerve-racker. Manly led 20-19 with four minutes to go but Tony Melrose kicked a field goal for the Eels and an exhausting encounter ended in a 20-20 draw.

Parramatta had beaten Newtown the previous year for their first premiership, but beating Manly would be extra sweet. Manly teenager Phil Blake scored from a bomb after only two minutes, but the Eels quickly regained their composure and were comfortable 21-8 winners.

Brett Kenny and Eric Grothe scored in the first 15 minutes and the writing was on the wall. The Eels prevailed 18-6. Twenty years later, the two clubs made history in Manly's 36-34 win at Brookvale Oval. Ben Walker's penalty goal in the 88th minute ended the first premiership match to be decided in golden-point extra time.
I wont win many supporters for agreeing with Hartley, but I think appointing Clark for this game wouldn't have been such a bad idea.

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