Click or flick across for photos of Mike Eden playing in the early 80s.
HE was born and raised on the northern beaches and pulled on the maroon and white in first grade when he was just 21.
But Albury’s Mike Eden will sit down to watch tomorrow night’s NRL grand final between the Sea Eagles and Sydney Roosters with mixed emotions.
In 1983, the then-Eastern Suburbs poached the Manly junior with an offer too good to refuse.
He finished as the competition’s leading pointscorer and won the Rothmans Medal, long before tobacco advertising was considered a bad thing and well before rugby league’s best player title was rebadged the Dally M.
“I don’t know what I will do on Sunday night,” Eden said yesterday.
“I played all my junior football at Manly, went to Manly Boys High, mum and dad still live at Fairlight.
“So I have a soft spot for Manly but the Roosters were good to me and I played my best football in their colours.
“At the moment I have both track suits out and a Thunder cap for good measure.”
Eden said his move to the Roosters wasn’t without its heartaches.
“Bob Fulton coached at the Roosters in 1982 and had signed to coach at Manly — at the time I was on $3000 a year and Easts offered me $25,000,” he said.
“I was newly married, had a son and was at university so I went back to Manly and told them I wanted to stay, that I loved Brookvale.
“But they just couldn’t match the dollars. In the end I didn’t have a choice.”
Eden said it was a very different game 30 years ago.
“In those days it was similar to how it is in Albury Thunder — no work, no play,” he said.
“If you didn’t have a job, didn’t go to school, you didn’t get a start — Terry Randall drove a concrete truck, Max Krilich and John Ribot were plumbers.
“We used to train three nights a week and Saturday morning and have to take time off work to get to midweek games.
“I was in the squad for the 1982 grand final and we had to take a week off work to go into camp and then pay for the wives and girlfriends to get into the game. I warmed up for 40 minutes but never got on the field.
“Then in 1986 when Parramatta won I played in their reserve grade side, sat on the bench and did the lap of honour with the first grade so this week brings back a lot of memories for me.”
Asked to give a tip, Eden is backing the Roosters.
“They will be very hard to beat, they are big, fast and tough,” he said.
“It is certainly going to be pretty tight — I can’t see too many tries.”