Manly happy with NRL finals progress - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly happy with NRL finals progress

By Todd Balym 18/09/2008 07:04:07 PM Comments (0)

Expectations of grand final success are higher but don't tell Manly players they've shot into NRL premiership favouritism.

Sitting among hundreds of beloved fans at Brookvale Oval on Thursday with a more relaxed attitude than when in the same position just 12 months ago, the last thing any of the Sea Eagles players wanted to hear about was their brief flirtation as NRL title favourites.

"I didn't hear much about that," said prop Brent Kite when told Manly became favourites for the title after Melbourne's loss last week.

"I don't know how that sits with the rest of the boys. I don't have much of an opinion on it."

Indeed "that tag", as Matt Orford called it, doesn't sit well with Manly.

They've spent the last two years trying to fly under the radar and would have been pleased when Melbourne regained the favourite tag a few days ago following Brisbane's off-field dramas.

But despite the betting fluctuations there is an air of confidence on Sydney's northern beaches that "under-the-radar" Manly are homing in on the target this year.

"I think expectations are probably a little bit higher than last year," said skipper Matt Orford.

"I think this year there is a lot more flags and banners up in shops and it's a really good vibe and buzz around the place at the moment.

"We have the experience and are a much more mature footy team.

"We're not relying on one or two guys for anything special. Everyone has taken a little bit more responsibility than last year and we just play simple football, it's not very complicated what you need to do in this finals series."

The Manly players said they felt like they belonged in next week's preliminary final and eagerly await the winner of Friday's New Zealand Warriors and Sydney Roosters clash.

"There are less nerves and we are more relaxed and I think everyone is a bit more focussed this year on what we have to do," said centre Steven Bell.

"Last year it was all new to most of the guys but this year we know what is ahead of us and we know how hard it is going to be so hopefully that will hold us a bit better than last year."

Bell (calf strain) and prop Josh Perry (corked knee) both declared themselves certain starters next Saturday and will resume training on Friday.

None of Manly's players would be drawn on who they'd prefer to play next week, although Orford's hopes would surely sit well with his teammates.

"I would really like to see those guys go into extra time and came back for a re-match Tuesday and then have to back up next week," he said.

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