Bluetongue Stadium will host a repeat of the 2013 NRL Preliminary Final on Friday night when Manly Sea Eagles take on South Sydney Rabbitohs. Manly will carry a psychological edge into this game having turned around a 16-0 deficit to make the Grand Final last year, while Souths are trying to use the pain of missing out on the decider by one game twice in a row as motivation for going all the way this time around.
The Sea Eagles were themselves on the receiving end of a thrilling comeback last week, losing a game against Melbourne Storm that they had led by 20 points. The Collapse coincided with Brett Stewart departing the field, and he will be missing again tonight. Peta Hiku moves to fullback to replace Stewart, with the returning David Williams taking over on the wing.
Greg Inglis was the headline act in the opening round for South Sydney as he notched a hat trick against the Roosters. Inglis looks to be in top shape in early season, far removed from the player carrying an injury in the latter stages of 2013. It was noticeable how less dangerous Souths were in attack in that period and they will be delighted to see their star fullback in such great form.
Sam Burgess is showing no signs that he will fade away in his final season with Souths. If he can lead his team’s forward pack with as much dominance as in the win over the Premiers then it will be difficult for the Sea Eagles to get a foothold in the game.
The new look partnership in the halves of Adam Reynolds and Dylan Walker worked well against the Roosters. John Sutton also did well at lock, although he looked tired at times with the extra workload that his new role demands.
Michael Maguire has been able to name an unchanged squad, although Walker and Chris McQueen picked up knocks last week and will be monitored. With Manly suffering from injuries and the blow of losing a big game against the Storm, Friday night presents a chance for the Rabbitohs to prove they are worthy of their Premiership favourites tag.
Friday 14th March, Bluetongue Stadium Gosford 19:45
Manly Sea Eagles v South Sydney Rabbitohs