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The top two teams on the ladder – Melbourne Storm and Manly Sea Eagles - faced off in the 2008 Grand Final, with only 12 points on the for/against differential separating the two teams.

That made the 40-0 thrashing that followed at Melbourne's expense all the more surprising.

The game carried extra significance for the team from Sydney's Northern Beaches, with veteran Steve Menzies playing his 349th and final NRL game – which equalled Terry Lamb's record for most appearances.

Storm captain Cameron Smith was suspended for the game after being found guilty of a grapple tackle.

In a close first half, Manly took an 8-0 lead into the break after tries from Matt Ballin and Michael Robertson.

Robertson brought up his hat-trick early in the second half, with back-to-back tries in the space of four minutes. This was just the beginning of the Sea Eagles onslaught.

Manly great Steve Menzies.
Manly great Steve Menzies. ©NRL Photos

Manly ran in six second-half tries – including the fairytale ending for Menzies, who crossed for his 180th career try in his glittering 15-year career in Australia.

But the most impressive part of the Sea Eagles' performance was that they were able to keep the minor premiers scoreless. It was the first time since the 1978 grand final replay (won 16-0 by Manly over Cronulla) where a team failed to score a point.

Best player: Brent Kite was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal, with his trademark hard work and fighting spirit on show. He was rewarded with a second-half try.

Unsung hero: Credit has to go to Michael Robertson. Scoring a hat-trick is a difficult task on any occasion, but to do it on the main stage was truly epic – especially when the game was still on the line, with only eight points the difference. Melbourne were left wondering how they let the game slip away.

Play of the day: While Robertson's two tries in quick succession took the fight out of the Storm, the crowd erupted with just eight minutes to go when Menzies set up his own try, with a spectacular run down the left-hand edge. He then got the ball back from Robertson to crash over. That became the lasting image from the match.

What-if moment: With the margin so big, there was no one moment that proved the difference. However, the Melbourne Storm were in the contest until the 47th minute, when Robertson's started his second-half heroics. The first half was end-to-end, and the Storm had opportunities to score.

The quote: After Melbourne's form throughout the season, coach Craig Bellamy summed up what every player and supporter was thinking in one simple sentence: "I didn't see that coming".

Recollection of a champion: Manly interchange player Mark Bryant recalls that it was the Sea Eagles could not have asked for a better build-up to the day. 

"On the day everything came together, and we got revenge for the previous year, where we got a hiding," Bryant said. 

"Des [Hasler] was really confident, and we had a great bunch of blokes – it was just a great team effort. We had some superstars in the team, but everyone played their role. So, it was just great to get back on track after the 2007 result."

Steve Turner playing for the Storm in 2008.
Steve Turner playing for the Storm in 2008. ©NRL Photos

Recollection of a runner-up: Melbourne Storm winger Steve Turner on a dark day for the club.

"We were going to the grand final quite confident. That was our third straight and we sort of become accustomed to playing in grand finals. I also remember we wore our white [away] jerseys whereas the other grand finals we'd played in our home jerseys.

"But Manly were brilliant that day. It was Steve Menzies' last game and 'Beaver' scored a try. Matty Orford was having a day out against his former club in Storm. It was one of those games where nothing went right for us and they were on song.

"It was a real shellacking and I know some will say that's because Cameron [Smith] wasn't there. That was a big talking point and that really riled up Bellyache [Bellamy]."

The year after: After finishing fourth at the end of the 2009 regular season, Melbourne went on to make the grand final again, against the Parramatta Eels. 

While the Storm won on the night and got to lift the trophy, they were subsequently stripped of the title, due to salary cap breaches.

Manly finished fifth, with 14 wins throughout the season, but were eliminated in the opening round of the 2009 finals following a 40-12 loss to the Melbourne Storm.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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