55 mins ago
Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles preview - 2017 Round 9
Breaking: South Sydney play match in South Sydney!
Nine rounds in and we have a "re-match" in 2017 - the Bunnies and Manly are the first pair of teams to square off for the second time this season, after the Rabbitohs recorded a convincing win seven weeks ago at Brookvale.
That loss had Manly sitting at 0-2 after two rounds and things were looking rather dire for Trent Barrett's men, tipped by many to be propping up the ladder by now. But to the surprise of most, they sit just inside the top eight, and are firm favourites here to reverse their Round 2 fortunes against a Rabbitohs side struggling for consistency - both in form and squad composition.
Manly come into this one on the back of a shock win over Canberra last Friday, Dylan Walker scoring an ambitious late try to level scores in the Nation's Capital, before converting a penalty goal to down the Green Machine. South Sydney meanwhile have been looking fairly listless in succumbing to Canterbury and Brisbane over the past fortnight, although they did stage a comeback against the Broncos and very nearly completed the upset.
The talking point for the home fans here is the venue - while the Rabbitohs have called ANZ Stadium home for the best part of 11-plus seasons, they play one game a season at their former Moore Park venue - and this year (for the second season in a row), their chosen opponent is Manly. The thinking may well be genius from a scheduling perspective too - Friday 6pm right by the Sydney CBD, right in South Sydney heartland.
Last meeting: Round 2 2017 - Sea Eagles 18 Rabbitohs 38
These old rivals have faced off some 154 times, with Manly holding a narrow 79-74 advantage - and just the one draw. There have been 13 meetings between the pair at Allianz Stadium since 1989, with the Bunnies only victorious on four occasions to Manly's nine.
Who to watch: Damien Cook is all but certain to be named for Country Origin next weekend, so a strong showing from the wily hooker is a must for the Rabbitohs this weekend. Having dethroned off-season acquisition Robbie Farah from the #9 jumper, he'll lay the platform with his speedy runs from dummy half before the former Tiger is rotated on, giving the Bunnies a new lease on life - likely sometime shortly after the break. With Adam Reynolds returning, South Sydney will need cohesion in attack if they're to be any hope of overcoming an in-form Manly.
Dylan Walker has been the absolute standout for the Sea Eagles this season and there's no reason this contest will be any different. Coming up against his former club, Walker will be keen to make amends for a fairly ordinary personal performance in the Round 2 loss which saw him come up with four missed tackles (including at least one leading to a try) and a poor night with the boot which saw him land only one from four attempts on goal. If his performance against the Raiders is any measuring stick, he's certainly left that form behind.
The favourite: Manly's form - both currently and in general on the road this season - has them as favourites to come away with this win.
My tip: I'm following the crowd on this one. Souths will compete but the Sea Eagles look a touch better at the moment. Sea Eagles by 6.
1. Alex Johnston 2. Hymel Hunt 3. Siosifa Talakai 4. Robert Jennings 5. Bryson Goodwin 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Kyle Turner 11. John Sutton 12. Angus Crichton 13. Sam Burgess 14. Robbie Farah 15. Jason Clark 16. Zane Musgrove 17. Cameron Murray
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Brian Kelly 5. Akuila Uate 6. Blake Green 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Brenton Lawrence 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Frank Winterstein 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Lewis Brown 15. Jackson Hastings 16. Nate Myles 17. Addin Fonua-blake
Referees: Gavin Badger, Gavin Reynolds; Sideline Officials: Russell Turner, Adam Reid; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Ben Galea;