Manly confident ahead of NRL grand final - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly confident ahead of NRL grand final

By Todd Balym 03/10/2008 06:23:15 PM Comments (0)

Manly players admit Melbourne held a psychological edge over them this year but are confident they're mentally ready to strike back in Sunday's NRL grand final.

Hooker Matt Ballin believes the Sea Eagles were beaten in their own heads when they lost 26-4 to the Storm in Melbourne in round five.

Melbourne's emphatic 34-8 grand final win last year had resonated for several months in Manly's psyche and it culminated in their limp effort at the start of the year.

The Storm then won their most recent clash 16-10 at Brookvale Oval eight weeks ago, making it four wins from the past five encounters, but Ballin believes Manly have since conquered their mental demons and replaced it with unwavering self-belief.

"I think probably we were a bit psychologically out of that first game after the grand final," said Ballin.

"We had lost a few games to them but I think towards the end of the season we've started to get our heads together and that's the only thing that was stopping us I think."

Prop Brent Kite has made no secret of his pleasure at facing Melbourne in a decider again.

He knows there is a perception Melbourne have a mental edge over the Sea Eagles, but he has no doubt Manly can knock the Storm off their perch.

"We wouldn't be here if we didn't think we could knock them off," said Kite.

"I think it will be good to hopefully get a win over Melbourne.

"It will be more special than say if we were to play the Broncos or Sharks.

"They have won the minor premiership for three years, they're right on top of their game and we have jostled at the top of the table for the last little while and they have got the better of it.

"To get a win over them would be sweeter than anyone else."

Ballin looms as a key player for the Sea Eagles if they are to exploit the absence of the world's best hooker, Melbourne captain Cameron Smith.

He is in just his second NRL season and admits he initially struggled taking over from departed champion Michael Monaghan at the start of 2008 but is confident in his own form heading into his first grand final.

"The start of the season wasn't that good for me. I struggled a little bit probably just with that expectation of 'Monas' leaving," he said.

"I don't think I was trying to play like him, it was just that expectation of him leaving and I probably thought that I had to try and do a little bit more.

"Whereas really I just had to play the way I played and the team would adapt to that.

"Heath (L'Estrange) coming off the bench has been awesome for us and he's taken a bit of the pressure off me and really provided some spark coming off.

"We have come right at a good time of the year."

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