Sean Maloney: The four best Manly v Warringah derbies I played in

By Sean Maloney

Mad Monday 2008.

Manly had just rolled Warringah in the upset of the season and we were camped at our scrumhalf Paddy Pearce’s joint in North Steyne. There were plenty of quality dress ups including James Lakepa who arrived as Captain Caveman. Sadly, ‘Keps’ lost the deposit on his costume after accidentally eating the rubber nose attached to his face, while mowing through a handful of leg ham.

The arvo was travelling beautifully when for some inexplicable reason, Paul Sheedy, who’d been a menace in the victory two days earlier, decided to wallop prop Eddie Aholelei from behind with an industrial strength broom. As expected, it was the broom that snapped first, then Ed.

“What are you doing Sheedy,” asked Ed calmly. (I should note Eddie is built like a Tongan Hulk)

“You wanna lay down,” replied ‘Sheeds.’

Eddie shrugged his shoulders and sent a punch that travelled a total of 4cm, which in turn sent ‘Sheed’s’ nose so far across his face it almost landed in Freshwater.

“Why’d you do that for,” asked Sheedy before resetting his hooter, shrugging his shoulders and walking back to the esky.

I’m not sure why, but Paul was denied entry to the Round Bar that afternoon.

That was my final run in a Derby. More on the game later, but a decade out of the code gives you time for reflection on those you played with and against. It’s the greatest Rugby Derby in Australia and here are four of the most memorable clashes I’ve been involved in. (Thanks to Bob Wilson for digging out the Rugby News programmes. No names have been changed, this is how it went down.)

IT BEGINS – 1st Grade Colts Grand Final 1999

The Marlins had a decent team that year, it was a forward pack of giants. One day at Chatswood Oval we packed a scrum 30 metres out and ended up being awarded a penalty try after driving them back 25 over six minutes, just because we could.

Warringah were decent too, led by Cameron Treloar, Michael ‘Lippo’ Lipman and Justin Purll. Out wide they also had Sam Harris and Mike Ruthven doing good things.

The backrowers from these sides turned out OK…I suppose

There was a little extra spice around the Grand Final after one of our lower graders went home with a girl who had spent time as the Rats’ Mascot. Before starting his own walk of shame, he stumbled on the outfit in her living room and brought it back south of the Queensie bridge. That didn’t go down well.

The match itself was brutal but Manly snuck home 19 – 13 thanks largely to ‘Keps’ and George Smith.

Smith, honestly.

We went on a three day bender, taking time out to prank call ‘Lippo’ many a time. They’d generally go like this.

US: What are you doing Lippo? We’re still having beers. Are you at the movies? Do you go to the movies when you lose the GF?

LIPPO: I’m not at the movies.

Funny stuff. Three years later Lippo was playing test Rugby for England, George was already a decorated Wallaby and that same Manly team were still prank calling each other. Some of them still do it to remember the good times.

OUCH – Manly v Rats, Brookvale Oval 2001

I can’t remember why, but in 2001, Manly played all their home games at Brookvale Oval. This game sticks out because it was the biggest ever hiding I copped in a derby. It was horrendous.

Sam Harris put on a show at flyhalf for the Rats, ‘Bubba’ Warman skippered them beautifully, John Hearn monstered us and ‘Lippo’ and Justin Purll, still smarting from that GF loss, murdered us. Just on John Hearn, he and I both cop it all the time for switching between Manly and Warringah, but nobody ever mentions Sikeli Qua Qua and Sione Taufa. They were on the wings for the Green and White that arvo after winning a PREMIERSHIP with Manly in 1997.

Rats of 2001, also known as ‘The Butchers of Brookvale’

Actually, I suspect nobody chirped Sione because he worked security at the Steyne. Scary dude on the field AND at the front door of the Sports Bar.

Anyway, the score blew out to 60-odd, it was the best Rats team I ever played. To try and erase the pain of being totally pantsed in a derby game, I wandered over to the Brookie Pub for a few beers before doing my arse on the Queen of the Nile pokie machine with Luke Donnan.

It still remains my darkest day on the Peninsula.

THE AMBUSH – Rats v Manly, Rat Park 2006

Long story short, the main reason I made the jump from Manly to Warringah in ’06 was for a potential shot at working with Fox Sports. Andrew Cox, the coach at the Rats at the time was (and is still) married to Australian Netballer and TV/Fox veteran Keeley Devery who said she’d try and help with an entry level spot. It didn’t eventuate for 19 months, but it happened and I ended up commentating Super Rugby games that Keeley produced. Funny how things work out.

The move didn’t go down well at home. All I got from my old man that year for Christmas was a novelty sized Darrell Lea Lollipop.

“Why did you give me this,” I questioned.

“Because you suck,” came the reply. Touche.

In the one and only game v Manly that year, we were at home and it was a 5pm kick off. Rats don’t lose games at home at night in winter, it’s a fact.

We executed THE classic ambush, giving it to the Marlins. Most of the sledging that evening came from my brothers Mark and Glen who sat on the hill with a large number of that 1999 Colts premiership winning team.

I took great pleasure in telling them to, ‘ENJOY THE ALL STOPS 155 BUS BACK TO MANLY,’ before realising I’d probably be getting home the same way.

THE FINALE – Manly v Rats, Manly Oval 2008

So here we are, back to the start, for the Finale.

In the week leading up to the final regular season game, captain Reuben Bijl and I both decided this would be our last match in Manly colours. Reubs decided to keep his decision quiet, while I wanted to try and use the emotion around it to lift us to an improbable win. It was a packed house at The Oval and Warringah were jammed with Wallabies, five in total. Phil Blake and Matt McGoldrick were our coaches and said we had ‘a good smell about us’ after the warm up.

Five Wallabies plays 15 battlers from Manly

‘Sheeds’ confirmed the vibe when he picked off Beau Robinson following a switch ball at the Sydney Road end. Robinson was one of the toughest blokes I’ve played against, it wasn’t easy dropping him, but somehow, on this day, he got wacked. It all kicked off not long after that, punches were thrown and in the melee I found myself toe-to-toe with Sitaleki Timani. Reluctant to anger a bloke similar in size to an Avenger, I gave him a fist bump and wished him well for Super Rugby. The fights cooled down, but we ran hot and came away big winners.

Reubs and I did a lap of that magical little bit of Real Estate where I crossed paths with my brothers. They said all had been forgiven and they were proud of me. I subsequently found out the only reason I’d been pardoned was because they’d cleaned up betting on us to win. Same went with my 1999 Colts mates, a winning bet made my move North forgotten in a flash.

That arvo finished with us singing the Manly Boom Boom in front of the Hill. I hugged Reubs…and then I cried. Tears for the years of blood spilt, for the team-mates that who had come and gone, for what this Derby in particular had given me. Then I really broke down when I realised my days of grabbing a Supreme from Jerry’s Pizzeria on Raglan Street at 4am following a Round Bar session were, in all likelihood, over.

Good luck to all grades, to all the colts and to all the fans who’ve got skin in the game come Derby day. It’s a special thing, enjoy it like it’s your last.