Manly pursuits

It was a golden late afternoon at Manly wharf on Saturday…
…Not quite warm enough for a dip though…

There are buildings with some beautiful old facades down near the beach…
Spotted: this ripper old dragster on the promenade…
… St George players warming up before taking on the Manly Sea Eagles…

Brookvale Oval, home to the Sea Eagles, is my favourite NRL ground. Aside from how fun it is to get there, passing all the most famous views of Sydney Harbour on a chugging ferry, it’s also a really small ground and one of the few that still has a grass hill rather than wall to wall grandstands. Consider: a sell-out crowd, like Saturday night’s top-of-the-table clash between the Eagles and the St George Dragons, comprised about 16,000 people.

We got to the ground so early we scored front row seats in the bleachers. It gave us a fantastic view of the game, and put us right in the middle of the game’s atmosphere – both on the field and in terms of bogan crowd behaviour. A contingent of Dragons fans were encamped behind us on the hill, singing “When The Saints Come Marching In” and heckling the diehard Manly fans. Both the Dragons and Manly fans were up in arms about the quality of the refereeing – both adamant that the umpire was biased against their team. “He’s been doing it all day, ref!” was the cry that rang out over and over. Despite the enthusiasm for these fat guys next to us (they were particularly impressed with the Manly cheerleaders, the “sea birds”), the most intense fan was a tubby old lady with owl-like round glasses, who seemed hell bent on provoking a physical altercation with someone, anyone….

At the end of the game, they sounded a siren to let the crowd know they could run onto the field. Suddenly kids appeared from every angle, leaping over the fences, playfighting and attempting to steal the various padded promotional signs. I looked away for a minute and my dad had calmly wandered down into the fray, and told me later on the bus home that he couldn’t wait to tell the folks back in the George that he’d stood on Brookvale!

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