Iconic NRL rivalries – Melbourne Storm v Manly Sea Eagles

Spread the love

In the last of our new series, Last Word on Rugby looks at iconic rivalries in the NRL.

When did this iconic NRL rivalry start?

Since these two great rivals first faced off in 1998, the record stands at 38 games, with 22 wins for Melbourne, 15 wins for Manly, and 1 draw.

Melbourne’s biggest win against the Sea Eagles was 40-6 in 2017 with Manly’s biggest victory coming in the 2008 Grand Final winning 40-0.  Their sole drawn match was 10-10 in 2013. 

The Storm’s longest winning run against Manly is three matches which they have achieved on three separate occasions including their first three meetings.

Manly have only once won three consecutive games against their rivals, from 2004 to 2006. 

The two were evenly matched during the late 2000s, ending the regular seasons as the top two sides in 2007, 2008 and 2011. 

Aside from their Grand Final meetings in 2007, and 2008, the rivalry is most known for the infamous ‘Battle of Brookvale’. 

The rivalry has emerged in the modern era due to their premiership deciding matches and in 2011 came the notorious match. It started when Melbourne interchange forward Ryan Hinchcliffe conceded a penalty when he struck Manly’s Darcy Lussick close to the Sea Eagles’ line.

A brawl ensued with Melbourne’s Adam Blair and Manly’s Glenn Stewart were sin-binned. 

This escalated with the pair fighting on the way to the dressing-rooms, with players and officials from both sides joining in, and subsequently being sent off. 

All of this happened in front of NRL CEO David Gallop and the judiciary eventually ruled Stewart and Blair be banned for three and five matches respectively. 

In total, 10 players and two officials from both clubs were charged to varying degrees with each club fined $50,000 from the NRL. 

Iconic NRL rivalries: notable matches

The first Grand Final between the two was in 2007 with the Sea Eagles having edged their only previous meeting that season, 13-12. Melbourne led 10-0 midway through the first-half with tries from Anthony Quinn and Greg Inglis before Steve Matai crossed for Manly, cutting the deficit to six points at the break.

Early in the second period, Manly fullback Brett Stewart was knocked unconscious by a massive hit from Storm players Michael Crocker and Billy Slater attempting to catch a kick. 

The Storm immediately capitalised through Crocker’s try and further scores from Matt King and Inglis saw the lead extended to 22-4. Chris Hicks grabbed one back for Manly but Melbourne completed a comprehensive victory late on with Clint Newton scoring and Quinn’s second.

Melbourne stripped of their title

This title was later stripped from Melbourne after they were found guilty in 2010 of breaching the salary cap. 

A rematch was set up in the 2008 showpiece but this turned out to be even more one-sided in favour of the Sea Eagles. Melbourne came into the match having won both that season’s meeting and having not lost to the Sea Eagles in their last three encounters.

No points were scored until the 24th minute when hooker Matt Ballin crashed over with Michael Robertson grabbing a second nine minutes later. Surprisingly, Matt Orford missed both conversions as the score remained 8-0 at half-time. 

Robertson completed his hat-trick soon after the interval to bring the score to make it 18-0 with Steve Maitai having taken over goal-kicking duties from Orford.  

Two more tries from Brent Kite and David Williams effectively sealed the premiership for Manly before Steve Menzies and Steven Bell both got over in their last matches for the club to make it 40-0. 

The scoreline is the highest Grand final margin in history and was the first time since 1978 that a team has been kept scoreless. 

Players to play for both teams

Matt Orford made his name at the Storm, playing 120 games between 2001 and 2005 as they had a mixed period, missing the finals twice but losing in the semi-finals in the following three campaigns. 

Embed from Getty Images

For the 2006 season the halfback moved to Manly where he stayed for three successful years as the Sea Eagles won and lost a premiership apiece, both against his former club.

On a personal level, 2008 was an impressive year for Orford as he won the Dally M Medal, becoming the first player since Peter Sterling to win the Dally M Medal and the premiership in the same year.

One teammate at the Storm was winger Steven Bell who made 107 appearances scoring 63 tries, a good record in a team that was yet to reach the elite.

Again like the halfback, Bell switched to the Sea Eagles in 2006 although he stayed a year less, he had success featuring in the 2007 and 2008 Grand Finals. 

He also boasted an outstanding record at Manly with 31 tries in 65 matches. 

History and Records


Melbourne have won three premierships, in 1999, 2012 and 2017. They finished runners-up on four occasions 2006, 2008, 2016 and 2018.

They have also won four minor premierships in 2011, 2016, 2017 and 2019 with their titles in 2007, 2008 and 2009 stripped due to their salary cap breach. 

Two Grand Final victories, in 2007 and 2009 were also taken due to the breach but they have also won the World Club Challenge three times, in 2000, 2013 and 2018. 

On two occasions they have won matches by 64 points, first beating Wests Tigers 64-0 in 2001 then thrashing Canberra 68-4 in 2013. However their heaviest loss is 4-50, against St George Illawarra Dragons in 2000 and the Bulldogs in 2003. 

Between August 2012 and May 2013 they put together 15 consecutive wins, a club record with their worst losing record standing at six games from April 2002 to June 2002. 

Fullback Billy Slater is Melbourne’s all-time top try-scorer with 190 while Cameron Smith holds the record for most number of NRL appearances with 419 currently. 

Slater in 2011 and Smith in 2006 and 2017 have both won the Dally M Medal while at the club with Cooper Cronk 2013 and 2016 also claiming it. 

Sea Eagles 

Manly have won eight premierships in 1972, 1973, 1976, 1978, 1987, 1996, 2008 and 2011. They have been runners-up 11 times in 1951, 1957, 1959, 1968, 1970, 1982, 1983, 1995, 1997, 2007 and 2013.

They have also claimed nine minor premierships in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1983, 1987, 1995, 1996 and 1997 and one World Club Challenge in 2009. 

A club record win came in 1973 when they beat Penrith 70–7 while their heaviest defeat was 6–68 against Cronulla in 2005. 

Like the Storm, the run of most successive wins stands at 15 in the 1995 campaign while they lost eight consecutive matches in 1950 and 1998-99.  

Cliff Lyons has made the most appearances for the club with 309 between 1986 and 1999 with Brett Stewart Manly’s all-time top try-scorer with 163 from 2003 to 2016. 

Matt Orford is the only player to win the Dally M Medal while at the Sea Eagles, in 2008.

What is your favourite NRL rivalry? Let us know on LWOS boards and at Lastwordonrugby.com.


Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images