Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Manly Sea Eagles v North Queensland Cowboys
ANZ Stadium, Friday 7:45pm - live updates
Such is the pressure of finals footy. Years of hard work from coaches and players and suddenly - we come to the realisation that one of these very good teams only has 80 minutes left of their season. It becomes about who wants it more. The Manly club have done well to recover from back office grumblings and the loss of Des Hasler just days after celebrating the 2011 premiership. But now, they stand on the brink of devastation as they face the Cowboys at Allianz Stadium in your 1st Semi Final on Friday night.
The Sea Eagles began last week's match against Canterbury as the aggressors and dominated possession in the early going but were only able to score 10 points in the first 40 minutes and went scoreless in the second. Much credit should go to the Bulldogs defence, but the Eagles need to be better with the ball to pose a threat to a potent North Queensland team. The Cowboys have won their past 5 and averaged 35 points in attack over that period. They are the best attacking team, statistically, in the competition and are almost injury free.
Manly will be confident having beaten the Cowboys in their last two meetings. Round 22 at Dairy Farmers this year, where the reigning premiers held their hosts to 6 points in a big win; and Week 1 of the Finals last year, where the Eagles scored 42 unanswered points in the second half to boot the Cowboys out of the comp . This time round, coach Neil Henry, captain Jonathan Thurston and their superstar front rowers finally turn the tables and get the job done and the Eagles are 'two and out'. Pity that only a few thousand people will see it at Allianz - but strap yourselves in for a beauty.
North Queensland 20-14