Both teams are playing it down, but there’s no doubt when Wests Tigers face Manly, the threat of an incident is never far away.
Sea Eagles hooker Matt Ballin did his best, but failed to sound convincing in denying his side don’t like the Tigers this week ahead of Friday’s NRL clash in Gosford.
“I wouldn’t say that. They are always competitive games,” Ballin said with a wry smile earlier this week.
And a huge grin spread across the face of Tigers skipper Robbie Farah when quizzed about why there always seemed to be some sort of flashpoint when his side and Manly went head-to-head.
“I guess it goes back to the whole fibros-silvertails thing,” Farah said.
“But it’s a healthy rivalry and one that’s good for the game.”
Despite the two side’s history, it’s the recent bad blood between them that makes Friday’s clash such a mouth-watering prospect.
In the round-one fixture in 2010, four players were placed on report and Manly prop George Rose was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Daniel Fitzhenry.
In the return match later that season in Gosford, the Sea Eagles won a spiteful clash 38-20 with Steve Matai spending 10 minutes on the sidelines and placed on report following a clash with Farah, who was then accused of play-acting by the Sea Eagles.
There were even issues between the two sides during a charity cricket match in the off-season last year, with the Tigers taking exception to Manly’s alleged win-at-all costs attitude in what they saw as a fun game.
And if that is not enough to light the blue touch paper, Adam Blair, who was at the centre of the Battle of Brookvale when playing for Melbourne last year, will line up for the Tigers on Friday.
Manly forward Glenn Stewart and the Kiwi backrower exchanged punches on the sidelines after being sent to the sin bin with several Manly players, including Brett Stewart, then running over to join in the ensuing melee.
Stewart is out of the fixture due to a dislocated finger, and coach Geoff Toovey is more concerned about his loss than the presence of Blair.
“It’s done and dusted that incident – we’ve all moved on,” Toovey said.
“Glenn is a big player for us and we’ll miss him. Any of that other stuff is behind us.”
Matai is also out for the premiers due to a broken hand but Tigers coach Tim Sheens claims the loss of the pair will not make the Tigers’ job any easier.
“Their four key players are 1,7,6 and 9 and I thought they were very good last weekend and they are all playing on Friday,” Sheens said.
“I think handling 37,000 home fans in Auckland against the Warriors and playing the last part of the game with 12 men shows that they are the team to beat again this year.”
The Tigers have injury worries of their own with NSW prop Keith Galloway out for eight weeks with a foot injury and rookie fullback James Tedesco out for the season with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
Props Aaron Woods and Matt Groat are both 20 and will start against seasoned campaigners Jason King and Brent Kite.
“They will be the youngest forwards I have fielded for a long time and it will be a big test for them,” Sheens said.
“But I have great confidence in them.”