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Roosters v Manly – NRL Grand Final Preview

If you ask me, Grand Final day is better than Christmas. It’s a celebration of the year in rugby league, and if you’re very, very lucky and your team has made it to the big dance, it’s a chance to realize every fans dream. We have an all-Sydney Grand Final, but not the one that Channel Nine was hoping for (If I had to put up with another week of Burgess-related stories I’d go round the twist), and Manly will take on the Roosters on rugby league’s biggest day.

According to the form guide, the Roosters should win this one. They’ve beaten Manly all three times they’ve played this season, including the brutal Qualifying final a few weeks ago. The big Rooster pack, which was boosted by the return of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves last week, has had no trouble rolling over the top of nearly every team they’ve faced this season. Sonny Bill-Williams is firing ahead of his (probable) last game for the Tri-colours, and the lesser lights like Aidan Guerra, Sam Moa and Daniel Mortimer are all contributing nicely. The key for Easts is their halves combination. James Maloney and halfback Mitchell Pearce must produce a quality performance, especially with their respective kicking games, in order to break down a staunch Manly defense. I have no doubt that Maloney is up to the challenge, but I’m not a believer in Mitchell Pearce. For mine, he is the weak link in this Roosters side, and his recent performances in high-pressure situations (the past 2 Origin series and the 2010 Grand Final in particular) don’t exactly remedy my concerns. The inclusion of Boyd Cordner is a serious gamble I think the Roosters could do without. The bullocking Aidan Guerra has performed well in Cordner’s absence, and as talented as Cordner is, the risk of him either reinjuring his ankle or being seriously underdone is too high.

Like I said before, the Roosters have won all three games between the two teams this season and have held Manly scoreless in the first half of all three games. However, on all three occasions, Manly were missing key players, Brett Stewart in their Round 9 and Qualifying Final losses, and Kieran Foran in the Round 16 loss. Stewart showed last week he might be the most important player to this Manly side, as the team showed an attacking dimension and potency that had been sorely lacking in their previous 2 games. You can certainly make the case that the Qualifying Final could have gone Manly’s way if Stewart had played, as he can convert a half-chance into a try better than almost anyone else. Manly have big game experience that you can’t buy, having played at this level several times before. Much like their clash with Souths last week, the key to a Manly win is in the middle. In the first 20 minutes last week, Souths ran roughshod over the smaller Sea Eagles pack, and it showed on the scoreboard. While Manly showed great resolve to claw their way back, if you give the Roosters a similar lead, they will keep their foot on the throat until the full time siren. The Roosters are too mentally tough and well drilled to allow opportunities like that slip.

Even though Manly finished 4th at the end of the regular season, these two teams are the best in the comp. The Qualifying final will be hard to top, but if they play to the level they did that night than we are in for one of the great Grand Finals of the modern era. The Roosters are a wonderful side, but I can’t go past the Sea Eagles. I’m tipping Manly by 6, with Kieran Foran for the Churchill Medal.

Fancy a punt on the big dance? Luxbet are offering a great range of Grand Final odds.

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