Thursday 14 December 2017 / 03:28 PM

Manly: the true yardstick of the NRL

The term ‘manly’ in the Oxford Dictionary is defined as “having or denoting those good qualities traditionally associated with men, such as courage, strength, and spirit”.

 

Are we certain the good people at Oxford haven’t been watching the Manly Sea Eagles over the past eight years?

When you think courage, strength and spirit you immediately think of the Sea Eagles, who continue to regenerate in an era when the pressures of a salary cap reduce premiership-winning sides to shells of their former selves in a matter of years.

Not Manly, a team that goes to another level of intensity and grit when the doubters are writing them off. They are the yardstick for rival sides, who get a true reading of where their season is at after coming up against Geoff Toovey’s side.

If you beat the Sea Eagles, you know you’re going alright.

Since their 2007 Grand Final appearance, the Sea Eagles haven’t budged. Their grand final opponents in both 2007 and ’08, the Melbourne Storm, soon found themselves in trouble with the NRL for rorting cap and had two premierships stripped as part of the ensuing penalties.

Parramatta and the Sydney Roosters were runners-up in 2009 and ’10 respectively, yet both struggled in the following seasons before the Roosters returned with Sonny Bill Williams last year to claim the title against none other than those manly Manly Sea Eagles.

St George Illawarra came and went as heavyweights of the competition, while the Canterbury Bulldogs are just finding their mojo again after gracing the last day of the year in season 2012.

Amongst all those temporary superpowers are the Sea Eagles, the one constant in an otherwise unpredictable and sometimes crazy premiership. In eight years they have appeared in four Grand Finals, winning two. It’s hard to compare different eras, but to make four deciders in eight years in the modern game is worth standing up and applauding.

Tonight they welcome the team that defeated them in one of the great Grand Final showdowns in 2013, the Roosters. A team full of razzle and dazzle, perfectly-shaped haircuts and cross-code prototypes.

Waiting for them at the ancient Brookvale Oval with the muck of a churned-up track beneath their feet are the battle-hardened Eagles. A no-nonsense country boy as their skipper, cornrows, socks down, dirty moustaches and a five-eighth who hits harder than Gorden Tallis.

But they aren’t just ugly and that’s the thing. With the ball they play attacking Rugby League, the likes of which we really don’t see enough of in the modern era. A tryscoring freak at fullback in Brett Stewart and a boom halfback with the world at his feet in Daly Cherry-Evans is just the tip of the iceberg.

They are ugly in the most fashionable way.

The Roosters aren’t the defending premiers for nothing and this Round 16 showdown is a mouth-watering prospect for all footy fans. You can’t sell the Roosters short in the engine-room – that would be ludicrous. They have plenty of mongrel, size and speed, which makes this match so tantalising.

Whatever the result we know there will be some sore Roosters on Saturday morning and you can guarantee one almighty challenge from Manly. That’s the beauty of this team: they live up to the hype and they thrive on the brutality.

And lining up against the Eagles tonight will be none other than former Brookvale tyro Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, a young firebrand who played six games for Manly back in 2009.

Manly’s new favourite prop Brenton Lawrence wasn’t sugar-coating the game plan when he spoke to the media on Wednesday.

“We don’t intend on just going out there and meeting what they can put to us. We have every intention of taking it to them,” Lawrence said.

“I think you need to [go to another level against Waerea-Hargreaves].

“It’s an aggressive game. I’m all for it, I like it.

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Curtis Woodward

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