Round 2: Sea Eagles v Roosters preview
Opening round losers eye first win
Unable to make the most of atrocious conditions at Leichardt Oval last Saturday, the Manly Sea Eagles will be out to pull off a major upset against the reigning premiers in their first home game of 2019.
Posting first points against Wests Tigers only to come up well short in the 20-6 loss, coach Des Hasler identified last-play options as an area in need of improvement for his side to stand a chance against the Roosters.
Holding a dominant historical record over the Tricolours at the ground formerly known as Brookvale Oval, winning 75% of all meetings since 1947, the Sea Eagles will be eager to erase the memories of last year's humiliating 56-24 loss on Golden Eagles Day by emulating several of the emphatic victories against the Roosters with Des Hasler at the helm - most notably the 56-0 win in 2007.
Losing Addin Fonua-Blake for one week after the representative prop was cited for making dangerous contact on Benji Marshall, Toafofoa Sipley will start in the front-row after playing just five minutes last week, former Penrith lower grader Corey Waddell will make his NRL off the bench, while Manase Fainu replaces Trent Hodkinson in the utility role.
In a personal milestone for veteran second rower Joel Thompson, the Indigenous and Country representative will celebrate his 200th appearance in first grade after providing great service to Canberra, St. George Illawarra and Manly for more than a decade.
Going down to their archrivals at the Sydney Cricket Ground last Friday, the Sydney Roosters will be confident of bouncing back on Saturday evening, having lost their opening two matches just twice this millennium.
Holding a two-point halftime advantage over South Sydney in the opening round, the decision to use marquee signing Angus Crichton sparingly caused some to question coach Trent Robinson in the aftermath of the 26-16 loss, with the two-time premiership winning coach preferring the starting forwards that triumphed in the grand final last September ahead of the New South Wales representative.
Resisting calls to elevate Crichton into the starting side, coach Robinson has named the same 17 players that came up short against South Sydney. However, a hamstring injury to Cooper Cronk has seen the veteran halfback ruled out with Papua New Guinea international Lachlan Lam to make his first grade debut after being granted an exemption by the NRL on Friday afternoon.
Who to watch: Regarded as a star of the future upon bursting onto the scene with the Titans four years ago, success has been hard to come by for Kane Elgey ever since. Touted as a future Maroons halfback after winning eight matches in his rookie season, the 25-year-old has managed just seven wins in first grade since returning from a torn ACL that saw him miss the entire 2016 season. Joining the Sea Eagles after spending much of last year in reserve grade at Tweed Heads, coach Des Hasler has called for increased involvement from his new five-eighth following a staid club debut against the Tigers. Capable of setting up tries and getting across the stripe himself, look for Elgey to step up on Saturday night in an effort to alleviate pressure on Daly Cherry-Evans and solidify his place as Manly's best option in the number six jersey.
Beginning his NRL career with the Sea Eagles a decade ago, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has well-and-truly become part of the Roosters' DNA throughout the 2010s. Playing in two grand final wins and representing New Zealand on over 20 occasions, the 30-year-old prop will relish the opportunity to face off against fellow Kiwi enforcer Martin Taupau in a bruising personal duel on Saturday night. Playing his 200th NRL match last Friday and set to become only the tenth Rooster to bring up the double century for the club on ANZAC Day, look for the rampaging number eight to be wary of the Sea Eagles undermanned front-row stocks, while being equally confident of running riot and creating plenty of attacking chances for his teammates to capitalise upon.