Curtis Sironen: I can't wait to play... Manly
The heavens opened like it was Mother Nature's last day on the job, but no one was moving from the rackety old grandstand or the packed Leichhardt Oval hill – including injured Wests Tigers second-rower Curtis Sironen.
"I remember it was pissing down rain and it wasn't the normal Leichhardt atmosphere, just because of the weather," Sironen recalled to NRL.com.
"But the boys came out and just did everything right. Everything clicked into place. I was like, 'How good is this? We could really do something special this year!'"
No one had expected this. We had long heard of the young talent simmering out of Concord, but hard lessons were anticipated against competition heavyweights Manly in Round 5 of the 2014 season.
But if there was any doubt about the romanticism and grandeur attached to the hallowed suburban ground, then it was put to bed by an upstart Tigers squad that defied the odds and recorded one of their finest wins in recent memory.
And the son of a Leichhardt legend was a mere witness to it all.
"It was raining, but it was still a good atmosphere. Especially when the boys started playing well, the crowd got real vocal and I remember being part of it. It was one of the best wins we had last year, definitely," Sironen said.
"I got to see it from the other side of the fence, which was good. You appreciate how much everyone gets into it when your team's playing well, everything's going right and you beat a really good side like Manly. It gives everyone a bit of hope and you can get the ball rolling that way."
In an age where players callously describe every contest as "just another game" and every opponent "like any other", Sironen freely admits that there are ones that you do "get up for". The team you really want to beat, the rival player who rubs you the wrong way, or the counterpart that triggers a painful memory.
"I haven't really played that many games but when you have a really good win, even if it was a couple of years ago, you look back and remember how well you played as a team, those times when you're up against it," he said.
"Not that they don't give you a chance, but going into the game the other team were the favourites and when you pull their pants down, it's something that you do remember. As a player, they're the games you do remember."
And Manly? Oh boy, did they remember.
"There was lots of talk about it heading into the Brookvale game and then Manly turned it around and gave us a touch up, which was a bit embarrassing," Sironen said.
"They were embarrassed the first time so they did the same thing. Both sides would enjoy that if they got into each other again."
And when all else fails, there's nothing that compares to that rackety old grandstand and stand-room only Leichhardt Oval hill. They're the games that Sironen will be searching for when the 2015 draw comes out in a few days time.
"I do, personally, because I'm a Balmain junior. I know all us boys, we love playing there more than anything," he said.
"All the Campbelltown boys, they love the big games at Campbelltown Stadium too and they get excited for that. Personally, I do look forward to how many games we've got there and how many are on a Sunday arvo and that sort of thing. It's exciting, hopefully it just doesn't piss down raining every Sunday like it did last year."