William Botoulas, Melbourne Correspondent, NRL.com
An unlikely hero swoops in to save the day
when all appears lost.
It seems a storyline more akin to a Marvel
comic book than the football field but that is precisely the plot line that
played out at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Trailing by three points with just four
minutes left on the clock Cooper Cronk fired a low cross-field kick in what
seemed like a desperate trick play.
With the ball on its downward trajectory in
swooped a No.18 wearing pink and purple to collect the football, cross the line
and save the day for Melbourne with a winning try in the most thrilling of
For the Storm it was not a bird, nor a
plane but in fact 21-year-old Kurt Mann, playing his debut NRL game in front of
13, 273 on lookers.
A Melbourne-Manly contest is a baptism of
fire at its hottest and to come away with the match-winning try in the 22-19 win, it was
understandable the young Queenslander was beaming ear-to-ear after full time
“It was pretty unbelievable I don’t know
what to say, I was in the right place, right time I guess,” said Mann.
“I assumed he [Cronk] was going to kick and
he kicked it my way. I just chased like there was no tomorrow.
“He is probably the best kicker in the game
and I was just lucky to be there.”
Mann was a late inclusion into the line-up
for Mahe Fonua in the centres and more than held his own, recording 65 metres and
23 tackles for the game.
Despite the impressive first up showing, the
Winton Devils recruit admits he was forced to endure a nervy couple of days in
the build up to his debut.
“I slept very uneasy last night I can tell
you that,” said Mann.
“[The day of the game] I was at home and
didn’t say much, all my family was down from Queensland and I just sort of sat
and kept to myself all day.
“I was really nervous at the captain’s run,
I didn’t want to touch the ball but [senior players] kept me calm and showed me
Centre was not the position Mann envisioned
he would make his debut, having played fullback in his first year at the club
in 2013, and being utilised at halfback and five-eighth at NSW Cup level.
In fact centre was a position that the
baby-faced Queenslander had not re-acquainted himself with up until a fortnight
“Not for a long time, back when I was 16
was the last time I’ve played in the centres except for the last 2 weeks in the
NSW Cup,” said Mann.
“I am happy to play anywhere, I just want
to play first grade footy so I’ll play anywhere if I have to.
“I thought I’d be waiting around until
State of Origin time to get a crack but got in early so it was good.”
If the kid can keep mixing it with the men as
he did on Saturday night, such opportunities and even greater heroics will be
sure to follow.