NRL Match Review & Judiciary Charges: Round 3
4 days ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Manly host Melbourne in the newest chapter in the battle of Brookvale
In what shapes already as one of the matches of the round, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles will look to break the Storm's impressive record in the opening round of the season.
Manly's line-up has been bolstered by the return of big men Addin Fonua-Blake and Jake Trbojevic around a month ahead of schedule, and while the jury is still out on whether they will make the final 17 to be named an hour before kick-off it is a hugely positive sign for the Northern Beaches based side who can be confident that the pair will be in action sooner rather than later. The rest of their side is as expected. Dylan Walker appears to have shored up the five-eighth position after playing some exciting footy there at the backend of last year and Lachlan Croker will play a utility role off the bench in the number 14 jersey. Manly fans will also see new recruit Danny Levi in action for the first time in maroon and white as he attempts to fill the void left by departing hooker Api Koroisau.
In what is a blow for Storm and Rugby League fans alike, Nelson Asofa-Solomona will still be recovering from a hamstring injury come Sunday afternoon and despite him being named on an extended bench and therefore still a slight chance of playing, we will likely be robbed of seeing him go toe-to-toe against other premier front rowers such as Marty Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake. His exclusion means that Fijian forward Tui Kamikamica can build upon his breakout 2019 season by starting this year on the field, while Harry Grant comes into the side as Brandon Smith recovers from a facial fracture he picked up playing for the Maori All Stars side in February. Marion Seve also appears to have won the initial battle over new recruit Brenko Lee for the left centre position vacated by Will Chambers.
The Storm's record in round 1 matches is nothing short of truly remarkable. They haven't lost their opening match since 2004 against Newcastle, however that game was played in round 2 due to there being a bye every week due to the odd number of teams in the competition. You have to go back to February 18th, 2001 to find the last time they lost in round 1. Two of those victories have been against Manly, including a one-point thriller at Lottoland in 2014.
Last meeting: Round 24 2019 - Sea Eagles 6 Storm 36
Despite the match being headlined by Jorge Taufua's all-time hit on Cameron Munster, the Storm were simply too good for the Sea Eagles in round 24 last year. They were able to extract sweet revenge on Manly who beat them by a point earlier in the year courtesy of a Daly Cherry-Evans field goal in the 89th minute.
Who to watch: Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic makes his long-awaited return for the Manly side on Sunday after an unprecedented run with injuries in 2019 severely limited his game-time. When he has been on the field however, he has stamped himself as one of the top 3 fullbacks in the game, whether that be due to his crisp combination with his brother Jake, his lightning fast pace or superb ability under the high ball. His matchup against fellow speedster Ryan Papenhuyzen will be an interesting and exciting one to watch as the match unfolds.
Although he has been named on the bench and only has 2 top flight NRL games to his name so far, young-gun hooker Harry Grant impressed in the Storm's trial matches, scoring and setting up a try across both his sides encounters against the Warriors and Cowboys respectively. It remains to be seen how coach Craig Bellamy will use him in first grade as well as if he will see out the year in Melbourne, with a swap deal with the Wests Tigers that has been looming since late-January still on the cards. That being said, he already has a lofty reputation and will be no doubt looking to sharpen his credentials as the long-term successor to Cameron Smith.
The favourite: It's unusual for Manly to start as outsiders for a Sunday afternoon match at Brookie but that's exactly what's happening this week, with the quality of opponent and their 17-year streak of winning Round 1 matches no doubt contributing factors.
My tip: This will be the closest match of the round, and I think the result may come down to whether or not Fonua-Blake and/or Trbojevic line up for Manly or not. Both sides are incredibly evenly matched, however the home crowd will be just enough to get Manly over the line in the latest instalment of the "Battle of Brookvale". Manly by 4.
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Brad Parker 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Dylan Walker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Danny Levi 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Lachlan Croker 15. Sean Keppie 16. Morgan Boyle 17. Haumole Olakauatu
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Marion Seve 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Tui Kamikamica 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 15. Tino Faasuamaleaui 16. Max King 17. Tom Eisenhuth 18. Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Referees: Matt Cecchin, Jon Stone; Sideline Officials: Dave Munro, Tim Alouani-Roby; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Galea;