Erasing the pain of last yearâ€™s heart-breaking loss, the Sea Eagles redefined rugby league perfection in the eight try display as Steve â€˜Beaverâ€™ Menzies was farewelled with a fairytale try in his final game wearing the colours in which he has shed blood, sweat and tears in a career spanning 349 games.
Winger Michael Robertson posted a rare hat-trick as Manly made history with the greatest ever winning margin in a grand final, but his monumental feat was over shadowed by Menziesâ€™ moment of magic which sent the 80,388 strong crowd into raptures.
It represents Manlyâ€™s first premiership since 1996, and the first time since 1978 a team has been held scoreless in a decider.
Their quest for back-to-back premierships in tatters, the Storm were left lamenting the loss of their chief player and captain Cameron Smith who missed the match through suspension.
Brent Kite accepted the coveted Clive Churchill medal for the best on-field performance, his 59th minute try capping off an inspired display from the Manly prop.
“I just have to give a huge wrap to my guys. I accept this on your behalf,” Kite said as he pointed to his teammates while accepting his award.
“I love yas all.”
Manly captain Matt Orford expelled the demons of old and silenced every one of his critics with a masterful performance in the No.7 jersey, and the emotions were overflowing after the match.
“That is the best feeling in the world, I can’t describe it. That’s made my year,” gushed Orford.
“It’s just awesome, I couldn’t have asked for any more from the boys.
“We had a great preparation, we’ve worked so hard.
“We’ve been playing together for three years and this is what we’ve been playing for.
“Now we’ve got memories for the rest of our lives.”
As it happenedâ€¦
Manly looked to gain a slight ascendancy during a fairly uneventful â€˜softening upâ€™ period, but the defence was rock solid at both ends of the field.
The Sea Eaglesâ€™ plan to aerially attack Billy Slater became apparent almost immediately, with Orford bombing to the Melbourne fullback three times in the first 10 minutes.
Israel Folau issued some early warning signs for Manly in the 18th minute, the teen sensation bullocking through the Sea Eaglesâ€™ line with only some desperation defence from Manlyâ€™s back three dragging down winger Steve Turner within metres of try-line.
The Sea Eagles needed to up the intensity. Enter Steve Menzies.
The Manly legend was thrown into the fray at the quarter way mark and Manly visibly lifted. Repeat sets put the Sea Eagles in serious attacking territory and the Storm showed the first chink in their defensive armour.
Ignoring the arsenal on his outside, hooker Matt Ballin took on the Melbourne line himself and wedged his way between Greg Inglis and Billy Slater for the opening points in the 24th minute.
Matt Orford needed to shake some mental demons from his back, but his shaky conversion attempt cannoned off the uprights to leave the Sea Eagles with a four point advantage.
Momentum was visibly behind the Sydney team and when Antonio Kaufusi spilt the ball coming out of Melbourneâ€™s half, the Eagles were primed for points.
When Manly want a try, they turn to Brett Stewart – and the speedy No.1 produced the goods when it counted.
Chiming perfectly into the backline, Stewart sent a crisp cut-out pass to a flying Michael Robertson who dotted down within inches of the corner post. The decision was sent to video referees Bill Harrigan and Steve Clark, and they donâ€™t come much tougher.
The winger planted the ball at almost the same time his feet were swept over the sideline â€“ the simultaneous placement giving Manly the benefit of the doubt, the green light and an 8-0 advantage at the break.
Melbourne needed to be the first to score as the second stanza got underway. They werenâ€™t.
As mistakes crept into the Stormâ€™s game, Orford stepped up to the plate with an impossibly perfect kick behind the line for Robertson to touch down for his second. Putting foot to ball 30m out from the Stormâ€™s line, Orfordâ€™s grubber could not have found Roberston in a better position if heâ€™d walked over and handed it to him.
Still with work to do, the cool-headed winger slipped past Slater and grounded the ball expertly just a foot inside the corner post. The try sent the packed stadium into raptures, but when Steve Matai slotted the conversion â€“ 14 points was always going to be hard to peg back.
If 14 points was going to be hard, then 18 was almost an impossibility.
Proving that everything he touches turns to gold, Stewart slipped an ugly, one-handed pass to nobody as Manly searched for their fourth of the afternoon. The ball bobbled awkwardly before Matai scooped up the scraps, drew Turner off his wing and sent Robertson over for a rare grand final hat-trick.
If the game wasnâ€™t out of Melbourneâ€™s reach, it certainly was with 20 minutes remaining as Brent Kite slam dunked the pill between the posts on the back of one of the most edge-of-your-seat passages of play this season.
Spinning the ball to the left, Manly had the Storm line scrambling before linking up with Menzies who was, as always, lurking on the inside. He connected with Jason King who, despite looking contained, slipped a ball out the back for Heath Lâ€™Estrange. The replacement hooker shot a pass in the direction of Kite and a brick wall wouldnâ€™t have stopped the stampeding prop with scent of the try-line in his nostrils.
Matai had no problems with the regulation conversion and despite a quarter of the game remaining â€“ it was goodnight Irene for the minor premiers â€“ their dream of back-to-back premierships shattered.
Frustrated and heart-broken, the Stormâ€™s once clinical structure began decomposing and the Sea Eagles slammed down on the accelerator.
Michael Crocker again became the villain as he spilt the ball coming out from his half – Manly spun the ball to the right and David â€˜Wolfmanâ€™ Williams capitalized beautifully with a textbook wingers try to extend the margin to 28-0.
If the fairytale wasnâ€™t already written like a movie script, it was when â€˜Beaverâ€™ Menzies found the line for his beloved Sea Eagles in the 73rd minute. Creating space for Robertson down the left edge, the winger could have chanced his arm for a fourth but selflessly flicked the ball back inside for Menzies who deserved to savour every moment of the crowdâ€™s rapturous applause.
It was a fitting finale for the Manly stalwart – a true gentleman of the game.
Steve Bell put the proverbial icing on the cake when he fielded a no-look speculator from Brett Stewart when Glenn Hall broke the line in the 76th minute, but the celebrations were already in full swing.
MANLY 40 (M Robertson 3 M Ballin S Bell B Kite S Menzies D Williams tries J Lyon 2 S Matai 2 goals)
bt MELBOURNE 0