Melbourne use Manly as NRL finals measure - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Melbourne use Manly as NRL finals measure

Melissa Woods 22/08/2011 05:00:52 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne may have a top two finish in the can but they won't hold anything back against Manly in what could be a preview to the NRL grand final.

After accounting for premiers St George Illawarra, the Storm have set their sights on Friday night on claiming the scalp of second-placed Manly, who haven't lost at Brookvale Oval this season.

A victory means Melbourne can snuff out any chance the Sea Eagles have of taking the minor premiership away.

Storm players were given the afternoon off on Monday after the Dragons match, which was played with finals intensity, following the advice of their physical performance unit.

But Melbourne football manager Frank Ponissi rated the looming Sea Eagles clash as their "greatest challenge" of the season.

"St George are still a benchmark in terms of what they're capable of doing but they've been out of form," said Ponissi.

"Manly been in winning form, a team very similar to ourselves."

Win or lose the Storm will maintain their top two position, however Ponissi said the team saw it as a way to measure themselves ahead of the finals and planned to go all out to win.

"We're both comfortable in our positions on the table but I have no doubt they're like us, they want measure themselves against and we certainly want to measure ourselves against them," he said.

"That's the importance of it ... you just like to know where you are.

"Both teams are in great form so you look forward to these games just before the finals.

"We'll be going for it."

Melbourne and Manly have a rich recent history, playing off in NRL grand finals in 2008 and 2009, but Ponissi said turnover in the player rosters meant it didn't count for much.

"Because we had such major turnover of players, we're talking about grand finals the vast majority of players weren't involved in.

"Apart from Cameron (Smith), Billy (Slater), Cooper (Cronk), Blairy (Adam Blair) and Quinny (Anthony Quinn), I can't think of anyone else who played in the 2008 grand finals.

"(Manly) They've probably got a few more than us but they've probably had a big turnover too."

Melbourne remain hopeful of the return of injured halfback Cooper Cronk, who has been working overtime on rehabilitating his ankle injury.

Centre Maurice Blair (shoulder) is still an outside chance while forward Sika Manu has been cleared of a back injury.

Winger Quinn will play after his partner Frances gave birth to their daughter, Summer, on the weekend.

Meanwhile, Melbourne fans will again be robbed of a chance to watch the game live with Channel Nine opting to show re-runs of Two And A Half Men, The Mentalist and CSI before an 11.30pm viewing of the game.

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