Dan Walsh, Staff Writer
There isn't a team in the NRL Telstra premiership that proves a point quite like Manly.
Dusted in one of the greatest grand finals of the modern era, they've shaped up twice to the defending premiers and produced two of the most impressive performances this side of last September, downing the latte-sippers 8-0 and more recently 24-16.
Whacked in the wet by the Tigers back in Round 5, the Sea Eagles returned the favour at their own suburban fortress on Friday night, a dry assessment of their progress delivering a 40-8 thrashing.
And when they say off-field distractions are anything but, they mean it. A weekly slice of humble pie to the critics who say the bickering between stars, boardroom stoushes, contract wrangles and David Williams' ill-fated multi-bets would knock them off their perch at the top of the NRL ladder.
So maybe there's a reason there's been so little fanfare about Dunamis Lui's career-best form since lobbing up on Geoff Toovey's doorstep courtesy of a downgraded contract from the club he thought he'd never leave.
Born and bred in Brisbane, and viewed as a Broncos mainstay when he first debuted for the club in 2010, Lui admits he was gutted when the club offered him significantly less than the deal he was on, dropping him from the club's top 25 squad to their second tier.
Taking the bitter with the better, the 24-year-old gave the Queensland superpowers a 'thanks but no thanks,' packed his bags and set out for Sydney with nothing more than redemption on his mind and a hint, and only a hint, of a chance of achieving it at Manly.
"There was a point to prove when I got down here," Lui tells NRL.com. "Obviously when they downgraded my contract at Brissie it was a bit sad; I wanted to stay loyal to the Broncos and stay up there.
"I didn't really know what I was coming down to here... there was no promises of a spot or anything like that, but there was an opportunity here at Manly, and that was hard to say no to.
"I didn't really know what to expect but I was always just going to put my head down and work hard. I got my opportunity in Round 1 and ever since I've been thankful for everything Tooves has given."
What coach Geoff Toovey has given the young prop is a run in every game this season, the longest string of consecutive NRL games he's had in five years of top-grade football. With five of the last six of those coming from the maroon-and-white's starting line-up, Lui's rise is one he admits has "exceeded all expectations I had," but one teammate Brenton Lawrence expects to continue.
"I love playing with Dunamis, he's a tough player and he's got a really big future in front of him," says Lawrence.
"I think when he matures a little bit and finds himself comfortable playing every week and that's the best part about the year he's having; he's getting that experience and I'm really excited to see the type of football and how good he can play in the back end of this season and over the next couple of years."
And when the Sea Eagles next return to their much-loved Brookvale battle ground again in Round 21, Lui and his teammates will be lining up for another morsel of one of rugby league's tastier treats. A bit of revenge against the Broncos, who inflicted Manly's heaviest defeat of the season, a 36-10 shellacking at the start of June, will taste just that little bit sweeter for Lui.
"It'll be like the Tigers again, and the Roosters games before that," Lui observes.
"We like to make sure we even it up if a team beats us, and the old club... it's always in the back of your mind.
"There will be a point to prove, so hopefully it goes better the second time around."