THE LONG HARD LOOK WITH MIKE WILSON
NRL FINALS WEEK 3 PREVIEW
FRIDAYMelbourne Storm v Manly Sea Eagles
AAMI Park, 7:45pm (local).
STORM: Billy Slater, Sisa Waqa, Dane Neilsen, Will Chambers, Justin O’Neill, Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk, Jessie Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Bryan Norrie, Sika Manu, Ryan Hoffman, Ryan Hinchcliffe. Interchange (from): Todd Lowrie, Jason Ryles, Jaiman Lowe, Kevin Procter, Rory Kostjasyn, Mahe Fonua, Richie Fa’aoso
SEA EAGLES: Brett Stewart, Jorge Taufua, Steve Matai, Jamie Lyon, Dean Whare, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Jason King, Matt Ballin, Brent Kite, Anthony Watmough, Tony Williams, Glenn Stewart. Interchange (from): Jamie Buhrer, Joe Galuvao, Darcy Lussick, Vic Mauro, George Rose
IT’S ALL SETUP like a movie script for the Manly Sea Eagles now. Those who don’t follow Manly or the Bulldogs are most likely hoping for a Bulldogs v Sea Eagles grand final so as to see coach Des Hasler take on his former team which he took to premiership glory last year. But if Manly are to find their way into the big one, they must first defeat their modern day rivals the Storm.
Storm v Sea Eagles matches have attracted a lot of interest since 2007 when both met in the Grand Final which saw the Storm assert their dominance and take down Manly quite comfortably. (The Storm were later to be stripped of their title due to salary cap breaches). The following year in 2008 the two sides met again on Grand Final day where Manly exacted revenge in emphatic fashion with a record breaking 40-0 victory, and so the rivalry began. And who could forget their match up at Brookvale oval at the end of last year when an intense bout of fisticuffs spilled over the sidelines in one of the biggest moments in the game’s recent history.
This time the duel continues on Melbourne’s home ground at AAMI Park and the Storm head into the game as $1.65 favourites after a steady flow of money has brought them in from $1.70 earlier in the week.
The on field action should be as tight as it comes with Manly holding a slight edge in the collective forward packs whereas Melbourne have a tad more skill throughout their backline and are generally less prone to mistakes in attack. Both teams ooze class and that trait in particular is what has sent both the Storm and Sea Eagles this deep into the premiership.
We are in for a bell-ringer of a game and come the 70th minute the Storm’s extra week of rest could prove to be the difference and help them hold on in a close one.
Last 8 Head to Head:
Storm, Sea Eagles, Storm, Sea Eagles, Sea Eagles, Storm, Sea Eagles, Storm
Chance of winning: Storm 52%, Sea Eagles 47%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Storm
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Tri-Bet: Either team to win by under 6.5 points @ $2.80 (Sportsbet)
Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs v South Sydney Rabbitohs
ANZ Stadium, 7:45pm (local).
BULLDOGS: Ben Barba, Sam Perrett, Josh Morris, Krisnan Inu, Jonathan Wright, Josh Reynolds, Kris Keating, Aiden Tolman, Michael Ennis, Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard, Josh Jackson, Greg Eastwood. Interchange (from): James Graham, Dale Finucane, Corey Payne, David Stagg, Dene Halatau
RABBITOHS: Greg Inglis, Nathan Merritt, Chris McQueen, Dylan Farrell, Andrew Everingham, John Sutton, Adam Reynolds, Luke Burgess, Issac Luke, Roy Asotasi, Sam Burgess, David Taylor, Michael Crocker. Interchange (from): Nathan Peats, David Tyrrell, Eddy Pettybourne, Ben Lowe, Justin Hunt, Jason Clark
THE DES HASLER STORY ENTERS ANOTHER CHAPTER as his Bulldogs vie with the Rabbitohs to become the final piece in the puzzle that is the 2012 Grand Final.
Many a pundit predicted that Hasler would need a year to get used to, and prepare his new team before perhaps taking them to the Grand Final in 2013 but clearly his thoughts never went beyond this year’s ultimate prize.
The Rabbitohs appear to be the real people’s team in 2012 with support for them reaching new heights and helping to propel them to 3rd on the ladder at the end of the home and away season.
The Rabbitohs may be holding some very high hopes of their fans but raw statistics may reveal an impending doom. Since Round 10 the Rabbitohs have only had two wins against a top 8 side, and that was the Raiders last week and in Round 12. The Bulldogs however are no strangers to winning; They are on a 9 game winning streak for games played at ANZ Stadium and overall have lost only one game in their last 15 this season. Ironically it was to the Raiders.
Before their definitive win against the Raiders last week, the Rabbitohs were only averaging 6.2 points per game against Top 8 teams since Round 16 and I won’t be surprised if they struggle to put some serious points on the board against the Bulldogs.
The week off will be beneficial for the Bulldogs who in the games following their 2 byes this year posted 28 and 36 points respectively.
I can’t go past the Bulldogs who as a team have been impeccable all season and have proven to be the complete package. Souths have simply struggled against top 8 sides too much for my liking and this may be the end of the fairytale…for now.
Last 8 Head to Head:
Bulldogs, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs, Bulldogs.
Chance of winning: Bulldogs 67%, Rabbitohs 32%, Draw 1%
Mike’s Tip: Bulldogs
Mike’s Suggested Bet: Bulldogs -5.5 @ $1.91 (Centrebet)