Season 2019 was one of surprise and satisfaction for Sea Eagles fans. Ripped up and written off, few gave the team a chance of making a dent in September.
As time goes by and special moments sail deeper into the realm of history, the more thorough our analyses of these events become.
Like anything moderately subjective, there will be an array of perspectives concerning the features of the event that are considered to be pivotal to the ultimate result.
In rugby league, close encounters in big games, predominantly taking place in the final series, will be discussed and debated by fervid supporters for the best part of their lifetimes.
The most recent NRL grand final between the Sydney Roosters and the Manly Sea Eagles qualifies for this score and would go down in history as one of the game’s classic contests.
The final score of 26-18 suggests in itself that this was a tight fought battle, but this is only a negligible fragment of just how great a spectacle it was.
The lead changed on four occasions and the momentum shifted even more frequently.
What’s most significant is that this classic, akin to previous colossal encounters, had several moments that were contentious and critical to the final score line.
Which moments will stand the test of time and remain hot topics of dispute for generations to come?
In the grand final of 2003, with the scores locked at 6-6, forward Scott Sattler famously chased down flying winger Todd Byrne and tackled him by the bootlaces in the 54th minute to prevent a certain try.
In 1997, Shannon Nevin missed a relatively straightforward penalty goal that would’ve given Manly an eight point lead with less than 15 minutes on the clock, putting them in a comfortable position.
Parramatta fans still harbour resentment for their preliminary final loss to the Bulldogs in 1998 after holding a commanding 16-point lead with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Paul Carriage never played another first grade game after shouldering the brunt of the blame for his side’s capitulation.
But should Brian Smith have kept playmaker John Simon on the field?
What if the Eels took full advantage of an exhausted bulldogs defensive line and thrust the nail in the coffin by opting to search for another four-pointer rather than shank a number of miserable field goal attempts?
Similarly, Tigers fans continue to rue Warren Ryan’s decision to bench star forwards Steve Roach and Paul Sironen in the dying stages of the 1989 Winfield Cup, which went into extra time.
But what if Ben Elias’s gallant attempt at a field goal had have had an extra knot of wind behind it?
These poor old die hards of the orange and black were still getting over their grand final loss from the previous year, in which their brilliant import Ellery Hanley had been knocked unconscious from a dirty Terry Lamb hit midway through the first half.
“The Black pearl” never returned to the field and many attribute his early departure as the cause of the Toger’s loss.
More importantly it is still widely believed that this was a deliberate tactic employed by Lamb to nullify the potency of their opponent’s attack.
In this year’s equivalent there are a number of possible instances that will spark discussion.
Should the Roosters have been awarded a penalty to give them an 8-6 lead for a hand in the play the ball or should Warea-Hargreaves been penalised and possibly sent to the bin for a head-butt?
Why weren’t the Sea Eagles awarded a scrum 20 metres from the roosters line for a dangerous last minute attacking opportunity when Michael Jennings clearly stuck his leg out and sent the ball into touch?
How didn’t the touch judge see that the penultimate pass in the match-winning try from Maloney to Minichello went a metre and a half forward?
And what about David Williams?
No matter how single-minded one is, they can surely confess that Manly were dealt a rough hand when it came to refereeing decisions and fate on Sunday evening.
It will take supreme strength of character and resilience to wait patiently and develop once again a formidable side over the next 12 months, capable of atoning for their misfortune.
Regardless of whether they do it successfully or not, this game is gone, inscribed and sealed in every sporting almanac without the possibility of Marty McFly entering the Delorean time machine and rewriting it. But it shall never be forgotten.