The NRL doesn’t want this happening again. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
The NRL doesn’t want this happening again. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Strap in for Battle of Brookie II

THE NRL will appoint a senior referee to control what shapes as one of this season's most volatile games - the Battle of Brookvale II.

Manly play Melbourne at Brookvale Oval on Saturday, almost eight years to the day since the infamous all-in brawl between the clubs that rocked rugby league.

What will make the game more enthralling are the similarities with the original Battle of Brookvale - the same coaches, playmakers, month and animosity.

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Bernard Sutton or Ashley Klein are likely to referee the game because the NRL does not want to risk a rookie adjudicating under the suffocating pressure on Saturday night.

"All games are important but at this stage of the season some are critical in determining the make-up of the finals," NRL head of football Graham Annesley said.

"Although the referee appointments have not yet been announced, you could expect that one of the game's most experienced officials will be in charge of such a big game."

Glenn Stewart and Adam Blair continue their fight after being sent to the sin bin.
Glenn Stewart and Adam Blair continue their fight after being sent to the sin bin.

While rugby league has changed significantly in the past eight years, there is no doubt Saturday's game will have the same tension and aggression.

The original Battle of Brookvale started when sin-binned players Glenn Stewart (Manly) and Adam Blair (Melbourne) began trading blows as they left the field.

An all-in brawl ensued and the fallout was significant, the NRL charging 10 players and two officials.

It was a game that stirs NRL fans’ blood. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
It was a game that stirs NRL fans’ blood. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

"It was mayhem, really," Manly prop Brent Kite said. "The memory that stayed with me was Brett Stewart flying over the top of the melee looking for his brother.

"They (Glenn Stewart and Blair) always had a not-so-healthy rivalry. It just all came to a head when they walked off together, old school. They don't do that anymore.

"You look at the footage, you see Glenn look back to see where the ref's eyes were. And then they get into it. It was a throw to yesteryear, that's for sure."

While the game has changed since 2011, some of the protagonists from the day have not.

Just a little of that tension must still remain … AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay
Just a little of that tension must still remain … AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay

Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans and Melbourne's Cameron Smith are still the captains of the two teams, while Des Hasler (Sea Eagles) and Craig Bellamy (Storm) are still the coaches.

Perhaps surprisingly, Hasler holds a 17-11 advantage over Bellamy in the head-to-head stakes.

In contrast, Smith holds a 9-5 advantage over Cherry-Evans in the win-loss column.

"Melbourne are always a big game on your agenda," Manly coach Des Hasler said after his side's 18-14 win over Canberra on Sunday.

"That's the sort of club they are and it's a credit to them. It'll be no different and the boys love playing at Brookie. There's always intrigue around these guys."

Six weeks after the Battle of Brookvale, Manly regained their composure to beat the New Zealand Warriors 24-10 in the grand final.