NRL: Spirit of 'Bozo' et al still burns

By Ben Horne

Manly are poised to take over from Melbourne as the most dominant team of the past decade. Photo / Getty Images
Manly are poised to take over from Melbourne as the most dominant team of the past decade. Photo / Getty Images

Manly may be the club others love to hate but the Roosters wouldn't even make their top five foes in the game.

Think North Sydney from across the Spit, Cronulla from the bloodbaths and beaches, Western Suburbs from their fibros, Parramatta from the '80s, Newcastle from '97, Melbourne for the past decade and Canterbury because of Des Hasler. And that's just scratching the surface.

But it was against Eastern Suburbs on grand final day 1972 that made the Sea Eagles what they are. Despised, but respected.

Their 19-14 win at the SCG 41 years ago broke the longest losing grand final run in league history.

Manly had lost the first five grand finals they'd played in.

Even long-suffering Sharks fans are one grand final disappointment short of what Manly experienced in their formative years.

The big-match DNA that has seen the Sea Eagles remain one of the most enduring forces in the game can be traced back to that September afternoon in '72 when Ray Branighan and Bob Fulton booted Manly home against the Roosters in a two tries-a-piece game.

Had the Sea Eagles lost another decider, perhaps they could have gone down the Cronulla and North Sydney road of perennial misery.

The history books certainly point to it being a turning point.

Since the 1970s when they won four titles, Manly have claimed a premiership in every decade.

Winger from Manly's back-to-back wins in 1972-73, Max Brown, says the bar was set by those pioneering premiership sides.

"There is an incredible strength within the club. What we went through - they were tough playing days those days," Brown said.

Manly are poised to take over from Melbourne as the most dominant team of the past decade if they topple the Roosters. Victory would give the Sea Eagles a record of three premierships and a grand final loss from the past seven years. While Melbourne have three grand final wins and two losses to their name since 2006, two of their premierships were stripped due to the salary cap scandal.

- AAP

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