FORTRESS Brookvale was once one of rugby league’s most feared grounds but it’s a place that has proven to be luckless for Manly in recent times.
The Sea Eagles haven’t won at their once-formidable home base since July 31 when they defeated back-to-back wooden spooners Newcastle. Manly claimed just three victories at home last season.
It’s a damming statistic that has prompted people to hail the recently rebadged “Lottoland” as a fitting title for Brookvale Oval given the team’s unlucky run at the venue.
Manly will look to break their hoodoo tomorrow when they take on the Bulldogs.
They will have to get past former premiership-winning coach Des Hasler — the man whose impressive winning record during his eight years on the Northern Beaches helped coin the phrase “Fortress Brookvale”.
Manly legend Steve Menzies was part of the club’s golden era at Brookie and says a number of factors have contributed to the team’s struggles.
Menzies believes the high turnover of players has been the major reason for the slide — with six of the top 17 new to the club this season.
“Home-ground advantage is a thing you build up,” Menzies told The Daily Telegraph.
“It’s not just something that because we’ve done that in the past, it happens in the future.
“Some of the guys are new, while other guys haven’t played many games at Brookie at all.
“When you are turning over a couple of players each year, you need the majority of the side to understand and know what it is like.”
Throughout his illustrious Manly career spanning 16 seasons, Menzies learned to memorise every blade of grass at the venue, picking up vital tips on the ground’s sheds and weather patterns.
“When you understand all the little factors, that’s when you get the advantage of a home game,” he said.
“You know what the crowd is going to do, you know the field, you know the atmosphere.
“You are familiar with all the conditions — the sheds, where you warm-up.
“I remember Craig Hancock never liked being on the western side in the first half, because it was harder when the sun was setting.
“It may be little, but it’s your familiarity — it’s your Sunday arvo at Brookie, that’s your home ground.”
Manly played two Sunday games at Brookvale Oval last season and Menzies has no doubts this contributed to the team’s sluggish form.
“When I came through it was always Sunday arvos and the hill would be full,” he said.
“That was traditionally our best crowd and a lot of our home games were played on a Sunday.
“But we only had two last year and I suppose that’s a factor when you don’t get your best crowd.”
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“That’s just the nature of the game these days. There are a lot more night games and not as many Sunday games.”
Menzies was impressed with Manly’s dominant win over North Queensland.
“Confidence is something that they need to build to back it up again this week,” he said.
“That’s when the team will start gelling.”