During the 2004 NRL season, with Manly fighting to hold off a first-ever wooden spoon, the administration and coaching staff – led by Des Hasler and Noel Cleal – were busy behind the scenes.
Under new coach Hasler, Ben Kennedy emerged as his first major signing. Although past his prime, it was seen as a major coup for a Club that had been cellar-dwellers since and even before the shortsighted merger with rivals Norths.
A week or so later and St. George Illawarra junior and rising prospect, Brent Kite, also decided to put pen to paper and signed a 3 year deal with the Maroon and White. The signing of Kite was treated with positive reviews, albeit a little underwhelming. Even though Kite had just played State of Origin for the first time that season and was a starting prop in a very good Dragons side in 2004.
Whereas the signing of Kennedy (30) was to bring short-term value, Kite’s was a longer-term prospect. It was a career move to be part of a growing side for next decade. It so rarely does in modern sport, and in life more generally, but that’s the way it turned out.
When Kite played his final game for Manly – on the biggest stage of all in the 2013 Grand Final – it was a proud moment for fans, and served as a time for reflection. Kite debuted for Manly in 2005 and from that moment on, were never taken lightly by opposition sides again. In fact, since Kite’s debut, Manly have never failed to finish in the top 8 (a nine-year NRL record).
A tall, muscular prop forward who could also fit into the back-row, Kite played 221 games for Manly. Only 8 Manly players have played for games for the Club. He won the Clive Churchill Medal in 2008 and played in 4 Grand Finals (winning two).
Kite spent most of his career with fellow starting prop, Jason King. A Tonga and Australia international who played 10 games for NSW over a 6-year period. Kite was never pretty (bar the 2008 Grand Final when he played the match of his life), but he could always be relied upon to make tough yards when needed or to find that offload when a gap in the defensive line was found. Kite was a hard tackler, a 100 percenter, and also a very softy-spoken family man off the field, as is so often the way.
Thanks for the memories, Brent. And it was a pity you couldn’t play out your career on the Northern Beaches. You deserved to.