Grand Final – Manly Sea Eagles v New Zealand Warriors.
Sunday 2nd of October 2011
Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Jamie Lyon (c), Steve Matai, Will Hopoate, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Joe Galuvao, Matt Ballin, Brent Kite, Anthony Watmough, Tony Williams, Glenn Stewart. Interchange (from): Shane Rodney, Jamie Buhrer, George Rose, Darcy Lussick
Kevin Locke, Bill Tupou, Lewis Brown, Krisnan Inu, Manu Vatuvei, James Maloney, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Aaron Heremaia, Jacob Lillyman, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering (C), Micheal Luck. Interchange (from): Lance Hohaia, Russell Packer, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Steve Rapira
IT’S ALL BEEN SAID AND DONE as far as the 2011 season is concerned. As 14 other teams fell by the wayside we have been left with the two hungriest competitors who are champing at the bit to turn on their best 80 minutes (maybe more) of this year.
The Sea Eagles have been solid from go to woe and earned themselves their 3rd Grand Final appearance in 5 years now. On the contrary the Warriors have been up and down all season finishing the home and away section in 6th before surviving a first-week finals loss to make it to ANZ Stadium for the decider.
Opinions across the country, and across the Tasman, are quite varied with many Australians unsure whether to cheer for a foreign team or a team they love to hate.
The big plus for Manly is the return of arguably their best player this season in Glen Stewart. Glen returns from a 3 week suspension along with rookie front rower Darcy Lussick and whilst some have raised doubts over their fitness levels, Coach Des Hasler quickly stamped out any concerns stating that Stewart and Lussick have been on a strict training program in their down time. Glen’s brother Brett has been improving by the week and looks like he could be building towards a big game. Despite scoring a try every 1.22 games, Brett has not scored once in his two Grand Final appearances to date. As was the case the last two weeks, look for him to be running off big Tony Williams in a bid for 4 points.
The one and only time the Warriors made the Grand Final was in 2002 and ironically it was coach Ivan Cleary’s last ever NRL game as a player.
Feleti Mateo has been named in the starting line-up but there is every chance he will start off the bench in a bid to recreate some of their recent success. Mateo is renowned for his offloads and brings his side to life by initiating second-phase plays. Mateo makes a lot of his devastating runs off the back of his hard working front rowers who have been brilliant over the last two weeks. Their tireless work has really laid the platform for the rest of the team. When they are tired, wingers Manu Vatuvei and Bill Tupou have chimed in perfectly with their runs from dummy half to help get the team out of the opposition 20.
So let the countdown begin to what is hopefully a very entertaining Grand Final!!
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
For the Grand final we will look at the four halves contesting the match. All four are playing in their first Grand Final, not to mention the two halfbacks are amazingly still only in their rookie season.
Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles Halfback)
What more can we say about Cherry-Evans that has not already been said? He has taken out the Rookie of the Year award and now fronts up in the Grand Final. He has played his whole season with the ultimate composure and helped his side to victory many a time thanks to his kicking game which has a perfect mix of long distance kicks and deft touches which keeps the pressure on the opposition.
Shaun Johnson (Warriors Halfback)
Following a superb solo effort that set up the Warriors final try against the Storm last week, many are touting Johnson as the next Benji Marshall. He has a spring in his step that leaves defenders bamboozled. Even for a young player he shows patience beyond his years and doesn’t try to get involved in every play. It’s his time to shine.
Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles Five-Eighth)
Foran is the man in the Manly side who knows when the perfect time is in a game to step up and lead by example. On several occasions throughout the year when the Sea Eagles have been behind on the scoreboard, Foran has stepped up and helped raise the side from adversity and put them in match winning positions. Expect more of the same this time around.
James Maloney (Warriors Five-Eighth)
He was the man no one wanted after he was forced out of the Storm and Maloney admits he had to play with the Warriors as a last resort to save his NRL career. His attacking game has been as solid as a rock and it’s fair to say that nothing fazes him. Maloney has always impressed me and he will be critical when it comes to feeding the forwards some quality ball and picking out his three-quarters for some try scoring opportunities.
There has been a lot of support for both teams and Manly have stayed solid around the $1.50 mark with bookies but are floating around the $1.57 mark on Betfair. Despite how well the Warriors have done to get to this point, they can still be unpredictable making no bet in this game a certainty. Defence could be the key and the Warriors tackled the house down last week but I’m backing Manly on the back of their pure class. Expect a good game nonetheless!
Mike’s Best Bet: on the Sea Eagles @ $1.57 (Betfair)
Starting Bank: $2000, Current Bank $2597.94
Team lists sourced from nrl.com.au