Round 23: Sea Eagles v Titans preview
Dead rubber at a near-empty Brookvale? Hmmm.
For all the derision the Friday 6pm slot seems to have attracted so far, this seems like a smart scheduling decision. Neither team is in the chase for a finals spot any more, and the race to avoid the wooden spoon is about all there is to be interested about here.
Coming into the clash 12th and 13th respectively, both teams have managed just seven wins from 21 matches in 2018, with Manly in particular underperforming, to the point the media has coach Trent Barrett reportedly leaving the club at the conclusion of the season.
While their positions might indicate they should be safe, with three rounds left and the bottom three teams throwing spanners into many teams' finals aspirations just two competition points behind them both, it's imperative both these teams picking up wins in the last weeks of the season.
Gold Coast come into this one off the back of a heartbreaking loss to the Panthers at home last Saturday, giving up a 16-6 lead to see Penrith come away with a one-point win in Golden Point. Manly's fortunes were far greater, taking advantage of a weakened Bulldogs outfit with a comfortably 18-6 win at Brookvale.
Only minor changes have been made on either side after last weekend's matches - Manly have opted to include Lloyd Perrett on the interchange with Taniela Paseka dropping out, while the Titans welcome back Brenko Lee into the centres after he was a late withdrawal on Saturday. This means Brendan Elliot makes way.
These two have met 17 times since the Titans were admitted to the NRL in 2007, with Manly having the advantage 10 wins to 7. The pair clashed at Marley Brown Oval in Gladstone earlier this season with the Gold Coast winning by twelve points.
Who to watch: Despite the ladder positions, this clash offers up a State of Origin backrow battle. Both Manly's Jake Trbojevic and Gold Coast's Jai Arrow were heavily featured in the three game series for their respective states and what better chance to keep their Origin coaches impressed than against each other?
The pair are somewhat a rare commodity in the modern game, both having played junior footy in the same region as their current club. A Mona Vale Raiders junior, Jake and brother Tom have stamped their presence on Manly since the departure of the Stewart brothers (incredibly a back rower and fullback as well), while Jai Arrow came through the system at Burleigh - being picked up by the Broncos before returning home to the Titans this season. Look for each to do their best to do their regions proud in the wake of dire seasons.