MELBOURNE'S purple reign is over.
Manly rule the rugby league world once again.
In the most one-sided grand final in premiership history, the Sea Eagles smashed the Storm in a record 40-0 rout at ANZ Stadium yesterday to claim their first title since 1996 and seventh overall.
On the wrong end of a 34-8 thrashing by the Storm in the same game at the same ground last year, Manly exacted the ultimate revenge by posting the highest score and biggest winning margin since compulsory grand finals were introduced in 1954.
Those records had belonged to the Roosters, who blanked St George 38-0 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1975.
Last night was also the first time since Manly's 16-0 victory over Cronulla in the 1978 grand final replay that a team was held scoreless in a premiership decider.
But even after watching his players totally dominate the most dominant team of the past three seasons, Manly coach Des Hasler remained his usual unassuming, understated self.
"We're still flying underneath the radar," Hasler said, repeating his signature statement of their season of redemption.
"I'm just very proud of the side. Coming from 12 months ago, they've worked really, really hard as a group of players.
"They've strived so hard, and I'm so pleased for them and so proud of them that they were able to experience a grand final win here tonight.
"I just thought that coming in we were playing some really good footy, and I think everything fell into place at the right time.
"You've got to tip your hat to Melbourne. They're still a champion side and a champion club, but our boys were fairly up for it tonight and made the most of our opportunities."
Hasler, who won premierships as a Manly player in 1987 and 1996, conceded that his players had been driven by the pain of last year's grand final defeat
"I think it sticks in the memory, that's for sure," he said.
"The reason why you play the game is to experience a grand final win, and they've worked hard. That's what I admire about this group."
The Sea Eagles scored eight tries the last two by departing heroes, club legend Steve Menzies in his 349th and final game for Manly, and former Storm centre Steve Bell. Both are England-bound.
Winger Michael Robertson claimed his own piece of history with a hat-trick of tries, joining St George legend Eddie Lumsden (1959 and 1961) and Brisbane's Steve Renouf (1997 Super League) as one of only three players to score three tries in a decider.
The Sea Eagles dominated the first half but led only 8-0. Then Robertson scored his second and third tries in the space of five minutes shortly after the break for Manly to establish an 18-0 stranglehold.
Under normal circumstances, the Storm might still have been capable of engineering a comeback, but without skipper Cameron Smith and back-row strike weapon Ryan Hoffman they lacked creativity in attack.
When Clive Churchill medallist Brent Kite crashed over under the posts in the 59th minute, the Sea Eagles led 24-0 and the Storm's premiership defence was over.
Much-maligned Manly halfback and skipper Matt Orford said he was still in shock after the match, leaving it up to pundits and punters to determine whether he had finally established himself as a big-game player.
"Who knows what people will write," Orford said. "I'm happy to win a grand final. I've worked so hard, and I'll leave it at that.
"It probably hasn't really sunk in probably because the scoreline was so big.
"We had the self-belief going into the game, then going into half-time leading 8-0 I thought they were going to really come out and it was going to be a tussle."
Orford said he finally felt comfortable when he looked at the scoreboard with about 15 minutes to go and the Sea Eagles led 24-0. He felt even better two minutes later when bearded right winger David Williams touched down for 28-0, then Menzies and Bell added the "happily ever after" line to the fairytale.
Led by Kite and prop partner Josh Perry, the Sea Eagles set the tempo from the opening whistle and established early field position through determined running and stinging defence.
The three-time minor premiers and grand finalists absorbed Manly's early body blows but offered little with their limited opportunities with the ball.
The Storm conceded tries to Matt Ballin and Robertson in the 24th and 34th minutes and would have trailed by more than 8-0 at half-time but for Orford's wayward goalkicking.
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy was matter-of-fact about the result, and stand-in skipper Cooper Cronk said it "sucked".
"I certainly didn't see that coming, and I must say that we ran into a pretty red-hot side tonight," Bellamy said.
"We just couldn't seem to stem the tide there in the second half, and they were very deserved winners.
"We didn't perform that well, obviously.
"I thought our defence was a bit soft in the first half, but it got softer in the second half.
"I think Dessie [Hasler] might have said the same sort of thing last year we probably left our worst until last. I'm not quite sure why.
"We're all going to be hurting for a little bit after this a big bit, a little bit, I'm not quite sure.
"But I'm not going to completely let what happened tonight spoil what these guys have done throughout the year. To get to the grand final was a great effort by these guys, and I'm still proud to be their coach.
"It would have been nice to win two in a row. It would have been nice to win three in a row, but at the end of the day you don't always get what you want, and we certainly didn't get what we wanted tonight.
"But that's footy and that's life, and we need to learn from this and hopefully get on with it."