Sea Eagles, Storm fly under the radar - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sea Eagles, Storm fly under the radar

By Liam FitzGibbon 07/08/2008 07:34:01 PM Comments (0)

Manly coach Des Hasler has wanted his NRL-leading side to sneak under the radar all season and this week he got his wish.

The build-up to Friday's grand final rematch between Melbourne and the Sea Eagles has taken a back seat to several rugby league controversies in one of the game's most dramatic weeks.

Despite shaping up as the game of the year, Sonny Bill Williams' walkout from the NRL and Todd Carney's dramatic sacking by Canberra have dominated the headlines ahead of the top-of-the-table Brookvale Oval clash.

It's something that would have suited Hasler just fine - the Sea Eagles coach has constantly played down his side all year despite their ultra-consistent form and two-point lead atop the competition.

The Storm have also been keen to deflect attention, with both sides referring to each other as the competition's "benchmark" in recent weeks.

But there is no denying the winner of Friday's clash will take a significant step towards the minor premiership and a psychological boost into the race for the premiership.

The Storm proved too classy when the sides met at Olympic Park in round five, winning 26-4 in their first match since the Victorians' 34-8 triumph in last year's decider.

But Sea Eagles backrower Anthony Watmough, who is hoping to make a return from a knee injury, expected a stronger challenge from a much-improved Manly side.

"It's a very different game to the one we had at the start of the year," Watmough said.

"We're a better team. We went down there and we were about 20 per cent off our game and it showed.

"Melbourne were way too good for us.

"We've just got to play the way we can play and then we know we can come away with the victory."

Both sides have been fortunate with injuries this season and head into the clash at near-full strength.

Sea Eagles halfback Matt Orford expected a tightly-contested game which could be decided by one of the many gamebreakers taking the field.

While the Sea Eagles have several of them, in try-scoring sensation Brett Stewart and veteran backrower Steve Menzies, Orford predicted Greg Inglis - who he rates the game's best player - would again be the Storm's go-to man.

"When there's tight games, he's the one they tend to look to make a difference," Orford said of the Test and Queensland star.

"His confidence has grown as a player and I guess he's a bit more mature now.

"Someone with that much talent, he can play anywhere. I just think his confidence is sky high at the moment."

A Melbourne win on Friday night would open up the minor premiership race, with Cronulla and the Sydney Roosters also just two points off the competition lead.

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