Round 24: Sea Eagles v Storm preview
Top four spot on the line as Sea Eagles look to topple Storm once more
After outlasting the Raiders in the nation's capital last week, the Many Sea Eagles have the perfect opportunity to further prove their premiership credentials this week against the soon-to-be crowned minor premiers.
They say that it is better to face the best teams in the lead-up to the finals as it prepares you well for what to come.
Being well-prepared is one thing though. Winning those games against the best teams is another - it builds confidence and in the case of the Sea Eagles, a level of arrogance that carried them to success a decade ago.
Suli is fine to go around this week but Thompson suffered a broken arm and may not play another game in 2019, depending on how deep into the finals Manly go.
They are bolstered by the return of edge backrower Curtis Sironen though, who is a direct replacement for Thompson.
The Melbourne Storm may have won last week but it was by no means a convincing victory. Craig Bellamy's men scrapped their way to a 24-8 win over the last-placed Titans in a game they were expected to have won well before half-time.
It was an underwhelming result considering they were coming off a loss to the Raiders - their first taste of defeat since going down to Manly earlier in the year.
The Storm have the perfect chance to make up for it this week even though they may have little to play for with the minor premiership wrapped up.
Who to watch: The battle of the fullbacks shapes as one of the most exciting aspects of Saturday's game. Tom Trbojevic put in a typically strong performance against the Storm earlier in the year, running for 227 metres, busting three tackles and breaking the line twice. Against the competition's best defence he will need to use all of his attacking prowess, capitalising on his combination of both size and flair.
Look for Ryan Papenhuzyen to cement his place at the back with Hughes in the number seven jersey. While Hughes fit seamlessly into the Melbourne side following Billy Slater's retirement, Papenhuyzen brings something different. He is explosive and adds an air of unpredictability in attack. In his four eighty-minute performances this year he averages a ridiculous 257 running metres, seven tackle busts and has scored in each.
My tip: Manly would have put a lot of energy into last week's victory and it may be hard for them to get up enough against a Storm side with plenty to prove despite an all-but-guaranteed first-place finish. Melbourne by 16.