It was always going to be Manly’s day. It was their Grand Final come early. Winless after 4 Rounds and welcoming back Brett Stewart at Brookvale Oval, the Tigers were walking into a bear trap, or an Eagle trap if you can call it that. Eagles winning 23-10.
The Tigers started well considering the build-up, their first few sets were impressive and they had the chance to be in the lead by a decent amount – but some dropped ball gave Manly that little sniff they needed and that was the end of it.
Brett Stewart too was under pressure, being watched by every eye in the house and boy did he perform.
The Tigers could not deal with his raw speed and positioning.
After 15 minutes, the Sea Eagles were in full swing and the local crowd were already throwing a party. Not surprisingly, the locals giving Brett Stewart unwavering support yesterday and throughout.
Stewart was cheered even during his sides warmup; anytime his face popped up on the video screen, again the crowd went wild. And finally we he took the field, the crowd blew the roof off Brookvale to let him know they were behind him 100%.
Sheens would have known his side was in for a torrid time, but the early raids the Tigers sent down the Manly left edge were very encouraging. The new combination of Tony Williams and Michael Robertson was flakey for sure and the Tigers exposed it within minutes. Touching down and silencing the crowd for a brief period.
But it wasn’t long before Stewart turned up the speed, racing to collect an Orford skyscrpaer to get his first of 3 tries.
Stewart launching above Tigers custodian Rhys Hanbury, to snatch the ball and skittle over the line.
Stewart took a moment to take it in, laying flat on his his back – requiring teammates to eventually help him up. A culmination of 4 weeks of off-field and his on-going saga could be forgotten for a moment, the crowd was roaring and Stewart was taking his team to a higher place even at that early stage.
Stewart was back and suddenly so was the old Manly.
It was on again only 4 minutes, Stewart adding his touch of class and speed to the play. Grabbing a pass not far out from the Wests try line, Stewart sped around John Morris leaving him in his wake and pinned the ears back for the line.
Not only is Brett Stewarts influence on this Manly team interesting, but the fact that he does it from fullback. He isn’t a half or five-eight who have so much baring on the structure – here is a custodian adding massive power to his teams attack. Brett Stewart is Manly.
But that wasn’t it – his 3rd and final try came when he trailed Anthony Watmough. Stewart erupting in celebrations after getting his 3rd and launching himself into the arms of his teammates.
Stewart has played at Brooky 53 times, and has bagged 51 tries during those games. A scary statistic and one that shows just how important he is to the attack of this team.
Des Hasler was quickly trying to play things down after the win.
“He plays a big role in this team. I thought he acquitted himself really well given he has been out for four weeks. It was great having everyone back. He’s one of the best fullbacks running around.Â confirmed Hasler.
The Tigers knew what was coming, but they couldn’t stop it. There was nothing anyside could have done,it was always going to be Manly’s biggest day.
“We knew he was a class player,” forward Chris Heighington said.
“Class players like that turn up for big games like today.
“We knew what he wanted to do. It’s disappointing that we knew he was coming back, he hadn’t played for four weeks, and he played like he hadn’t had a week off. He’s a pretty confident player. He showed that today. It shows what sort of character he has got.”
After the game, Stewart and the Manly side made a beeline for the crowd. The side spending several minutes meeting and thanking supporters, Brett getting massive ovations from the entire crowd.
Can Manly take this form into their next game? They face the tough Bunnies away, in what should be a cracker. The physical style of Souths should be in stark contrast to the touch football from Wests – something that will seriously test where Manly are at with Stewart back on deck.