Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Manly and Des look to continue stunning rise in sudden-death shootout with Rabbitohs
A lot has been made of Des Hasler's impressive ability to get the most out of the Sea Eagles throughout the year.
He may have pulled a metaphorical rabbit out of a hat last week but this time the rabbit is more than real.
It is more deceptive and harder to catch, led by an equally masterful coach in Wayne Bennett.
Bennett was right in his press conference last week when he claimed that their game against the Roosters was lost by half-time and that instead the focus was building on the second forty.
It wasn't pretty but they did end up holding the Tricolours to just one try during that period while scoring one of their own.
The Rabbitohs have been criticised as of late for uninspired efforts in attack. They are playing slower than they used to - everything isn't done at the same speed that saw their lethal left edge branded the best in the competition.
Similarly, an understrength forward pack isn't standing up and giving livewire hooker Damien Cook the space he needs.
But too often we have seen that the aura of being coached by a genius like Bennett has suddenly brought the best out of players.
Hell, he even took the playing group out to the bush in the pre-season for a remote bonding experience in favour of using their first-class facilities.
He does things differently. So does Des.
The Sea Eagles were rank outsiders last week, just as Des likes it. Even better, they were a chance of having their home-ground advantage stripped away from them.
Back at Brookie, with the odds stacked against them, no one gave them a chance and you can be sure that Des made sure the players knew it.
He had already turned a group of largely unheralded first-graders into a team of champions working for each other.
Moses Suli and Brad Parker were once on the fringes but now were tearing Cronulla's edges to shreds.
Addin Fonua-Blake made a name for himself as one of the best front rowers in the competition.
And they were all led by Daly Cherry-Evans - again one of rugby league's most divisive personality.
Last meeting: Round 17 2019 - Rabbitohs 21 Sea Eagles 20
The Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles played out two one-point thrillers this year, Souths winning the latest one 21-20 despite scoring less tries.
Who to watch: For Souths it's obvious - Sammy Burgess. Back from suspension and unloading on the NRL's judiciary system, Burgess will be fuming and ready to take his anger out. It bodes well for Souths who struggled to match the Roosters up front last week. And they need Burgess' intensity this week as they battle a Manly pack that has continued to step up all year.
They were led by Addin Fonua-Blake last week, with the prop scoring a try, busting eight tackles and running for over 170 metres in the win over Cronulla. AFB was a man on a mission without fellow front rower Martin Taupau. The challenge this week will be to emulate the same effort with Taupau back because the temptation after such a strong individual effort will be to sit back. But Fonua-Blake has been so important to Manly's success this year, they can't afford for him to give any less.
The favourite: Souths are backed here despite going down last week.
My tip: The Rabbitohs are always capable of a strong performance, particularly in attack, but you can always count on Manly to show up. Sea Eagles by 8.
Outcome: The winner of Friday's clash heads to GIO Stadium next Friday - where they'll face Canberra for a spot in the 2019 Grand Final.
1. Adam Doueihi 2. Alex Johnston 3. James Roberts 4. Dane Gagai 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Liam Knight 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray 14. George Burgess 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Tevita Tatola 17. Ethan Lowe
1. Brendan Elliot 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Brad Parker 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Dylan Walker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Corey Waddell 12. Jack Gosiewski 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Manase Fainu 15. Haumole Olakauatu 16. Sean Keppie 17. Lloyd Perrett
Referees: Gerard Sutton, Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Nick Beashel, Belinda Sharpe; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Bryan Norrie;