Manly set to storm Melbourne’s fortress
Sea Eagles head coach Geoff Toovey. AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Manly are plotting to storm Melbourne’s fortress and seize the mantle as the NRL’s new super powers in Friday night’s heavyweight preliminary final at AAMI Park.
The decade’s most dominant forces will collide in a high-stakes encounter, the reward a shot at premiership glory and bragging rights as the NRL’s most successful club.
Renewing their bitter finals rivalry, Melbourne and Manly are clashing in the playoffs for the first time since the Storm belted the Sea Eagles 40-12 in the 2009 qualifying final.
A year earlier, Manly buried the Storm 40-0 in the 2008 title mismatch at ANZ Stadium to avenge a 34-8 loss to Melbourne in the 2007 decider.
Now the Eagles and Storm are bidding to become the NRL’s first triple premiers.
Fittingly, the sides have split their past ten matches.
But while the Eagles hold an 8-5 edge in clashes in Sydney since the Storm entered the league in 1998, conquering Melbourne on home soil has proven an altogether different proposition.
Manly have won only twice in nine matches in Melbourne and lost their only previous clash at AAMI Park – in round one last year.
“It is tougher playing them down there,” admitted star five-eighth Kieran Foran.
“They always turn up. We’re going to need to be at the top of our game.”
Foran, 22, hasn’t forgotten his finals debut in `09 – when the Storm ripped his side apart to end Manly’s season before going on to win the premiership, which was later stripped for salary-cap breaches.
But Sea Eagles skipper Jamie Lyon is confident of qualifying for the club’s fourth grand final in six seasons – a tally to match the Storm’s dream run from 2006-09 – and says thay are relishing the challenge.
“We know it’s going to be a tough ask going down there. It’s always hard,” Lyon said.
“But if you want to be the No.1 team, you’ve got to beat everyone and we can’t wait.”
While Lyon completed the entire game after being in doubt for last Friday night’s 22-12 semi-final win over North Queensland, his co-captain Jason King is a new fitness concern after lasting only 27 minutes before succumbing to a shoulder injury.
MANLY V MELBOURNE RECENT NRL FINALS MATCHES
* 2007 – Grand final, Melbourne 34 Manly 8
* 2008 – Grand final, Manly 40 Melbourne 0
* 2009 – Qualifying final, Melbourne 40 Manly 12© AAP 2013
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