Manly youngsters facing 29-year hoodoo - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly youngsters facing 29-year hoodoo

By Steve Jancetic 24/08/2010 07:14:38 PM Comments (0)

They have Manly on the brink of a remarkable top-four finish, but young halves Trent Hodkinson and Keiran Foran must overcome a 29-year hoodoo to deliver the Sea Eagles the NRL premiership.

Not since Parramatta legends Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny led the Eels to their maiden title in 1981 has a younger pair combined to achieve the ultimate goal.

Hodkinson, who turns 22 next week, and Foran, 20, have stunned the critics with their controlled play in 2010, after many believed the club would struggle in the wake of former premiership-winning skipper Matt Orford's departure.

But history suggests the pair could struggle to go all the way, with leading rugby league statistician David Middleton revealing the pair would be the youngest since Sterling (21) and Kenny (20) to triumph in a grand final.

You have to go back even further, to 1979, to find a less experienced premiership-winning halves combination, with St George's Tony Trudgett (37 games) and Steve "Slippery" Morris (17 games) having just 54 games under their belt.

To date, Foran and Hodkinson have combined for just 50 games, this seemingly their one and only chance to work together for a title with Hodkinson heading to Canterbury in 2011.

While Foran's class was evident in his nine appearances in the top grade last year, Hodkinson has been a revelation in the No.7 to be a front-runner for rookie of the year honours.

He bided his time playing behind Orford with Manly's feeder side Sunshine Coast in the Queensland Cup last year, and the man who helped develop him from promising schoolboy footballer into an NRL star says there is nothing to stop his rise continuing in the finals.

"He's cool under pressure, he's slotted a couple of field goals to get them a win, he's been in a good environment last year in pressure situations and came out on top," said Brandon Costin, coach of the Sunshine Coast side Hodkinson led to last year's Queensland Cup title.

"He's also played representative football this year - at what point does he stop being a rookie because he's jumped every hurdle that's been put in front of him this year?

"If you look at it that way, I can't see any dramas with Trent playing semis for Manly this year because it's just another hurdle that he'll jump."

For the second time this season, Hodkinson on Saturday night almost single-handedly delivered the Sea Eagles two competition points with his late field goal breaking the deadlock in a 19-16 win over the Warriors.

The win left Manly just two points out of the top four and Hodkinson admitted he was ready for he and Foran to be targeted by opposition sides hoping they would crack under the intensity of finals football.

"You've got to be ready for that - we're probably the youngest half/five-eighth combo in the comp," Hodkinson said.

"We'll be expecting that, a lot of traffic our way and a lot of pressure, I'm just really looking forward to the challenge."

Costin claimed Hodkinson showed maturity beyond his years to help Sunshine Coast to their premiership win last season, so much so Costin was happy to leave all the playmaking responsibility in the hands of the Parramatta junior.

"We actually played with another forward at five-eighth and in the grand final it was (Manly winger) Tony Williams playing as a back-rower in the No.6," Costin said.

"Trent actually played both sides of the field because we didn't have another halfback - that sort of says how much of an influence he had on the side.

"You just knew Manly were going to be okay once Trent got his shot."

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