WIZ: Souths halves and hardmen could send feathers flying
Adam Reynolds in action. AAP Image/Action Photographics,Renee McKay
What a game we’re in for tonight: Souths vs Manly; the 2011 rookie of the year, Daly Cherry-Evans, vs the probable Rookie of 2012, Adam Reynolds; last year’s Premiers against this year’s hopefuls.
And if all that wasn’t enough, in a shrewd tactical play, Eagles coach Geoff Toovey this week applied the blowtorch to Souths, and Reynolds in particular, via the media, commending the youngster on an outstanding season to date.
Yes, the pressure has well and truly been applied. And it will be tightened even more on the field tonight.
What Manly will do is use big Tony Williams to target the much smaller Reynolds in defence, in much the same way that James Maloney was used as a pinball by Williams a few weeks back.
Reynolds is in for a torrid time. But he’s a tough kid, and luckily for him, he’s surrounded by a bunch of hard, seasoned veterans in Sam Burgess, Isaac Luke, and Michael Crocker, in particular.
Souths have a big pack, but they’re also fast, mobile, and defensively very strong.
As are Manly, who have one of the best defences in the competition.
So it’ll most likely come down to a battle between the 6s and 7s: Sutton vs Foran, Reynolds vs Cherry-Evans, with the question being, who will set the better platform for their outside backs to run off?
One thing I do know is that Souths coach Michael MacGuire has his side very fit. They’re quick out of the gates and this season they’re holding that intensity across the full 80 minutes.
They’re winning the big games as a result.
But this is their biggest test of the season.
Can they match it with the reigning premiers, who will be at near full-strength for the first time this season?
If Souths beat Manly, everyone will be true believers, rather than put their run of wins down to good luck, as some have done.
Even without Greg Inglis, they have the ability to do it.
It’ll just come down to how well they handle the pressure that the seasoned Sea Eagles are sure to apply right from the kick-off.
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2013.