Manly look to dominate opening exchanges - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly look to dominate opening exchanges

By David Beniuk 02/10/2008 05:18:23 PM Comments (0)

The traditional softening-up period is alive and well as Manly prepare to up the aggression on Melbourne in Sunday's NRL grand final.

NRL clubs have lined up to try to put the defending premiers off their game with some brutal forward play since St George Illawarra's visit to Olympic Park in round 19 this year.

That fiery encounter, which the Dragons lost 26-0, culminated in visiting coach Nathan Brown declaring Melbourne's wrestling tactics would result in a "bloodbath".

Manly appeared to take that on board when they mounted an aggressive forward assault on the Storm in round 22 at Brookvale Oval, only to fall short 16-10, and prompted Storm coach Craig Bellamy to invite the Sea Eagles "down the back alley".

"We just play as a pack, we've played the whole year aggressive and up tempo," Sea Eagles second-rower Anthony Watmough said.

"We like to get on to the front foot for Ox (Matt Orford) and Killer (Jamie Lyon) so we'll just keep doing that I think."

Manly were comprehensively outmuscled in last year's decider, and Storm enforcer Mick Crocker's sickening second-half bellringer on Sea Eagles fullback Brett Stewart typified the Storm's physicality.

Storm prop Brett White said he expected stiffer resistance from the Sea Eagles at ANZ Stadium this time around.

"I know that was spoken about earlier in the year, that was the way to play the Melbourne Storm," White said.

"No doubt they're going well up front, Manly. They're a big aggressive pack and no doubt that's how it's going to be. They're going to try and come out and play aggressive against us.

"We just worry about what works for us and what we're doing, not so much what other teams are doing against us, so we'll worry about what we can control and we'll leave it at that."

Manly coach Des Hasler said he was yet to trim his six-man bench but the need to dominate in the forwards is likely to mean ball-playing prop Adam Cuthbertson and underdone utility Luke Williamson miss out to giant front-rowers Mark Bryant and Jason King.

Veteran interchange utility Steve Menzies said he expected nothing less than an old-fashioned, softening-up period in Sunday's opening exchanges.

"It's a grand final, I've no doubt the first 10 or 15 minutes is going to be pretty crazy," Menzies said.

"All our games against Melbourne have been pretty hectic for the first 10 or 15 so I wouldn't expect anything less."

Storm coach Craig Bellamy agreed the traditional sorting out period still applies.

"It does to a certain extent," he said.

"I don't know how physical you can get. I think if you go back to last year's grand final, the first 10 minutes was fairly physical and so I imagine it's going to be the same again.

"It's a big game as everyone knows and there'll be a few emotions let out in the first five or 10 minutes I suppose."

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