Opinion: There's something about Mary Street

There’s just something about Mary Street.

When the sun is shining, the beer is icy cold and the hill is throbbing there’s no better place to be than the famous old ground that has sat down the end of the leafy Inner West street since the days of Bradman and Phar Lap.

Yet with the only light illuminating the hallowed turf man-made, icy cold a description more suited the horizontal rain than the lager and Leichhardt’s celebrated hill hidden beneath a sea of umbrellas and orange plastic, they still came.

In weather that would make even the most die-hard fan contemplate a sitting on the lounge instead, an impressive 16,311 hardy souls still came and packed into Leichhardt Oval tighter than clowns in a circus car.

Giving it to Steve Matai. Giving it to the refs. Giving it their all.

And while the Tigers faithful were treated to a thrilling display of attacking football that defied the elements and a previously high-flying Manly outfit, the players were under no allusions as to who benefits more from the four games a year the club takes into its inner west stronghold.

“They’re unbelievable, they just get better and better here at Leichhardt,” gushed lock forward Adam Blair after the Tigers' 34-18 win.

“They turn up no matter what and when you’ve got a crowd like that behind you we don’t want to disappoint them.

“They come out rain, hail or shine and today was pouring down with rain and they all turned up in their colours. It’s outstanding to have such a good crowd supporting us.”

Local boy Aaron Woods knows the full force of that support.

When he scored his side’s fourth try in half an hour the big man was hard pressed deciphering fans from teammates as he threw high fives at anyone in orange and black.

There are few bigger favourites among Tigers supporters than the shaggy-haired prop. Even if he did barrack for the enemy as a kid. Hell, we all did embarrassing things in our younger years.

“I actually grew up wanting to play for Manly,” said Woods, who grew up within spitting distance of the ground on nearby Norton Street.

“I grew up around the corner, nothing beats Leichhardt Oval.

“I loved coming here with my mates. All of them were Tigers supporters and when I was a kid Manly used to play here a lot, so I used to get bagged all the time.

“But it was good to be on the other side this time.”

That’s the thing about Leichhardt on a Sunday afternoon, no matter which side you’re on, be it rain, hail or shine, there’s just something about it that feels good and proper. Like the rugby league gods had the joint in mind when it came to a place of worship for our code.

It’s a fixture always pencilled into the calendars of players and fans alike well in advance, like the anniversary or birthday you know you’re going to regret if you miss it.

“I love playing here,” enthused Robbie Farah.

“All the boys love playing here. The crowd turned out, stood there in the pouring rain and it was good that we repaid their efforts today.

‘There’s just something about this place.”

Yep, there’s definitely something about Mary Street.