Manly v Melbourne preview

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Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm Saturday 7:35pm at Suncorp Stadium

The Battle of Suncorp

In what would have been another instalment of the famous "Battle of Brookvale", we now look forward to a fiery match between rivals Manly and Melbourne in Brisbane due to COVID-19 protocols. There have been some classics over the years between these two, with none being for famous than the 2011 match-up which saw Manly's Glenn Stewart and the Storm's Adam Blair mix it up before both being sent from the field. This Saturday's game shapes up to be another classic, with the sides currently arguably the best two teams in the competition.

Manly are coming off the back of another convincing win, beating out the Sharks 40-22 in their last outing. Fullback Tom Trbojevic starred again, with an incredible six try involvements. Three of those tries also belonged to himself. Manly are often cast as one of the only sides in the competition who have the potential to match it with the Storm. They have a chance to prove those claims this weekend in a game which could level them on competition points with the top 4.

The Storm were clinical again last week and made light work of heavyweights Penrith, winning 37-10. The Storm proved that they're still the top team in the race for this year's premiership, but they will have to get up for another big one this weekend against perhaps their biggest threat.

In team news, Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler has made a few changes ahead of this one. Taniela Paseka has been named to start, but may start off the bench as he did last week, with Toafofoa Sipley back to the bench with a chance to start. Josh Aloiai is also a chance to start upon his return, but has been named to start on the bench with Curtis Sironen dropping back to the reserves.

Craig Bellamy's only changes to his team from last week are forced, following the suspension of Felise Kaufusi. Chris Lewis will come into the starting side to fill the hole left by Kaufusi in the second row. This sees Tom Eisenhuth come onto the bench for Melbourne to round out the changes.

Last meeting: Round 16 2020 - Storm 30 Sea Eagles 6

Who to watch: When choosing who to look out for in Manly's side, it's hard to go past Tom Trbojevic. The fullback has been absolutely sensational this year in what may be one of the best individual seasons ever. It's crucial that Trbojevic is on his game for this one, facing the competitions best side. If Trbojevic can lead his side to a victory against Melbourne, it really stamps Manly's authority as contenders and would go a long way to securing the side a top four finish.  

Starting as a fullback at Melbourne, many questioned Jahrome Hughes' ability to shift to a playmaking halfback role. Fast forward almost two seasons now and he is one of the best halfbacks in the competition. He's won a grand final at halfback, so we know the big games won't overwhelm him and if the Storm can pull off another win here, Hughes will have had a massive hand in what went right for Melbourne. In what shapes up to be a tight one, look for Hughes to control the game with a steady, calm approach.

The favourite: Given their current run of form, it's little surprise to see that Melbourne are again favourites to win this week.

My tip: In a competition this year that has separated the best from the worst so dramatically, we are finally about to see the two most in-form sides go toe-to-toe in what should be a tight one. Encounters between Manly and Melbourne are always tough games to pick, with it being a certainty that they'll both be up for the challenge. It looks like at the moment if anyone is going to beat Melbourne, it will be the Sea Eagles. But Melbourne won't allow Manly as much ball as other teams have given them, meaning the Sea Eagles' defence is going to be put to the test more than it has in previous weeks. Manly seem capable of holding off the Storm better than other sides which should make it tight, but I'm not sure they're going to be able to get over the line against a red-hot Storm. Melbourne by 10.

1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jason Saab 3. Brad Parker 4. Morgan Harper 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Kieran Foran 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 17. Toafofoa Sipley 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Martin Taupau 11. Haumole Olakau'atu 12. Josh Schuster 13. Jake Trbojevic 8. Taniela Paseka 14. Dylan Walker 15. Karl Lawton 16. Josh Aloiai 18. Moses Suli

1. Nicholas Hynes 2. Dean Ieremia 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Brandon Smith 10. Christian Welch 15. Tom Eisenhuth 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 11. Chris Lewis 14. Harry Grant 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen 19. Tepai Moeroa 16. Jordan Grant

Referees: Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: David Munro, Peter Gough; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy;

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