Just six days after both clubs took part in the historic double header at Allianz Stadium, its back to the same venue on Friday night for Manly Sea Eagles and Cronulla Sharks in an Elimination Final. The winner of this clash goes through to a Preliminary Final against South Sydney next Friday night.
The Sea Eagles were kept scoreless by the Roosters in last week’s Qualifying Final, but also only conceded four points themselves against the Minor Premiers. One of the most physical encounters in recent times will have taken a lot out of Manly, but each player has been named again in this week’s squad.
The Sharks also looked tired by the end of their controversial win over the Cowboys, with plenty of walking wounded on the field come full time. One of which was Todd Carney who has not been named in the squad due to his hamstring injury. It will be a big loss for the Sharks, especially when you consider that the Sea Eagles retain some hope for a possible return for Brett Stewart. Carney will be given up until the final hours before kick-off to prove his fitness, but even he has conceded he is unlikely to overcome the injury.
At this stage Luke Lewis will play in the halves, but the Sharks will need their forward pack to be at the top of their game to compensate for the loss of their star playmaker. Manly will look to expose gaps around the sides, although they have been criticised for an over reliance on this tactic against the Roosters.
Peta Hiku will again deputise for Brett Stewart should he not overcome a hamstring injury. While the absence of Stewart will be a blow to Manly, it is worth noting that last week Hiku broke a club record for metres gained in a match.
Manly have certainly had the better of matches between the two in recent times, with seven wins in the last eight encounters. A tight physical affair is what most are predicting, and if it comes down to goal kicking then the Sharks can point to Michael Gordon’s 86 per cent success rate this season as the potential game breaker. Jamie Lyon, on the other hand, has only converted 67 per cent for Manly.
Both clubs are doing everything they can to get as many of their fans over to Moore Park, with regular buses departing their respective Leagues Club’s directly for Allianz Stadium. If the atmosphere at last week’s double header is anything to go by, another special occasion awaits.
Friday 20th September, Allianz Stadium Moore Park 19:45
Manly Sea Eagles v Cronulla Sharks