Manly not only took down their nemesis team Melbourne they buried them, winning 40-0 to secure their seventh NRL premiership with the biggest grand final thumping in the 100-year history of the game.
The Sea Eagles were sublime as they exorcised the demons of their 2007 grand final capitulation to beat a Storm side bereft of ideas and energy, the toll of an arduous campaign leaving the premiers helpless to weather the Manly onslaught at ANZ Stadium.
The margin eclipsed Eastern Suburbs’ 38-0 win over St George in 1975 as the biggest winning margin in a decider, with Melbourne also the first side since Cronulla in the 1978 replay to be held scoreless in a grand final when Manly was again victorious.
That 1978 victory was a key part of coach Des Hasler’s pre-season preparations with members from that side used in motivational talks to his 2008 team.
Whatever they said must have left an impression with Manly avenging last year’s 34-8 flogging by the Storm and celebrating their first premiership since 1996.
Winger Michael Robertson was a hero with a hat-trick of tries, while Steve Menzies’ record-equalling 349th and final first grade appearance was capped with a try, one of eight four-pointers for the victors.
“That is the best feeling in the world, I can’t describe it, that’s made my year,” captain Matt Orford said.
“It was awesome, I couldn’t ask any more of the boys. The pain of last year – that is purely and purely gone.
“We’ve been playing together for three years and this is what we’ve been playing for.
“Now we’ve got memories for the rest of our lives.”
Orford was brilliant for the Sea Eagles, the nuggety halfback showing the form which saw him claim the Dally M medal with a strong display in attack and defence.
But it was Test prop Brent Kite who was voted Clive Churchill medallist as man of the match with his 167 metres and 26 tackles leading a dominant forward pack which never allowed Melbourne’s array of backline stars to get into the contest.
“It’s fantastic I’m really proud of the boys,” Manly coach Des Hasler said.
“They’re the ones that have done all the hard work, they deserve the plaudits.
“Our passes stuck and I think we took the most of our opportunities and I think that’s what got us home.”
For the Storm, the loss left them looking back on their three years of dominance with a feeling of underachievment, Melbourne with just one premiership to show for a period in which they won 80 per cent of their games and three minor premierships.
In reality the Storm’s premiership chances never recovered from the suspension of skipper Cameron Smith, the Test rake a forlorn figure as he sat on the sidelines watching a machine which all season had operated like a Ferrari, suddenly looking more like a 1983 Cortina in need of a service.
The Sea Eagles seemed to be getting better as the game wore on – the silvertails pulverising their opponents over the opening 40 minutes before blowing them off the park over the second stanza.
Up 8-0 at the break after tries to Matt Ballin and Robertson, the Sea Eagles broke the back of the Melbourne resistance seven minutes after the restart when a pin-point Orford kick found Robertson out wide for his second of the night, Steve Matai’s sideline conversion taking the margin out to beyond two converted tries.
His third four minutes later simply served to kick-start the party as Sea Eagles fans had their ultimate fairytale turn to reality with Menzies – who had only just come back onto the field for an injured Steve Matai – finishing off a spectacular movement to cross out wide in his last game for the club he has represented since 1993.