Category Archives: NRL

Manly Sea Eagles v Melbourne Storm preview

On Friday night, we will experience what the Roman’s were audience to back in the times when gladiators battled for life and death, because on Friday night, the Melbourne Storm and Manly Sea Eagles enter the arena in the top of the table clash.

These two NRL heavyweights have established a strong rivalry over the past several years including facing off in the 2007 and 2008 grand finals. They may well meet again and look intently at each other in the eyes as they await the national anthem to conclude and the whistle to be blown in this years premiership decider.

Although both are assured to play finals, Manly and Melbourne still have a great deal to play for. Des Hasler’s men can still be crowned minor premiers if they prevail in the remaining two games (Melbourne and Brisbane), but they require the Storm to go down this week and then to Sydney the following week. If Manly succumb to the dominant Storm side and then drop the ball against the Broncos next Sunday, they could enter the finals series in third place.

After overcoming the Dragons last week in a low scoring affair (8-6), the ladder-leading Storm venture north where they will meet the second-placed Sea Eagles in the second last round before the finals kick-off.

In round 24 Manly went head to head with the Bulldogs and all but shut the lid on their hope of playing finals. However, it was a game which you could say they were fortunate to win.Canterburyhad their chances but in the end class prevailed.

The Storm maintains the number 1 ranked defence in the league as well as having the second-best attack. Further, they have come out on top five times in the past eight matches.

The Sea Eagles attack is the best in the business in 2011. Their defence is third-best. And they hold a 6-3 lead when playing at Brookvale.

Oh aren’t we in for a treat this Friday night.

Every moment in the 80-minutes will count, more than ever – slip in concentration and loss of focus and the game could be lost; possession will be imperative.

Manly are a win away from a perfect season at home this year which gives them an edge playing host to the Storm. Another key factor in Friday’s night clash is the absence of Cooper Cronk who also missed the St George match last week.

Melbourne have been performing at increasingly high levels this year and in the authors opinion, Cameron Smith will resemble General Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator in the opening scenes when he is leads his soldiers to triumph over the Germanic tribes.

On Friday night Brookvale will transform into the Colosseum and the two finest gladiators of the year will charge into battle.

You play Emperor…thumbs up for Manly or thumbs down for Melbourne?

A Melbourne Storm 16-10 victory for me.

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Is Bennett the reason for Dragons form slump?

He is a champion in the coach’s box and even better when he throws on his psychologist’s hat and plays with the minds of players, rivals, the captivated audience and attentive media.

Who am I? I am Wayne Bennett.

Only four teams in the 2011 NRL season hold the key to the premiership –Melbourne, Manly, Brisbane and Bennett’s Dragons. However, one hand is slowly slipping from NRL’s greatest prize, that illustrious trophy.

The Dragons have struggled recently against Canterbury (19-24), South’s (24-34), West’s (14-16), and the Roosters (12-20). The horizon doesn’t look any easier for St George either with a Friday night clash against the all-conquering Melbourne Storm in Melbourne.

After last weekend’s loss to Sydney, Bennett sat in front of the awaiting journos and said that, “players play and coach’s coach”. True Wayne but the coach is always the casualty if any person is to vacate their position from the inner sanctum.

The master coach is one of the best in the business of carefully constructing his words and what he wants his players to read in the papers the next morning. But even that seems to be failing to be delivered now.

Why?

One factor among the reasons why the club has gone deep into a form slump seems to now be coming out to a greater extent – it revolves around the forthcoming departure of Bennett who is set to join Newcastle in the 2012.

There have been mentions that the players are holding back and not exerting themselves to the levels of which they are capable of. Although in the background, St George players may be looking discontentedly ahead to next year where Mark Gasiner will no longer be at the club due to retirement and the fact that Australian fullback Darius Boyd will be following his coach to Newcastle.

It is a strange situation to be in and the players would be feeling is the most; that is that Bennett is moving on to a rival and they may want to now hold closer their match-plan tactics and strategies.

Supporters have contributed the losses to a tough State of Origin series and the recent Jamie Soward’s drop in form, but the origin excuse is invalid – just look at the Storm.

It is a massive game for the Dragons tomorrow and equally for the Storm as both sides head towards the finals. Will Bennett’s comments to the media strike a chord in the Dragons players or will they continue their downfall at the most important time of the year?

My prediction is for the Storm to win comfortably and the fireworks to set Melbourne’s skyline alight.

Storming ahead to the NRL premiership in 2011

A year after being deducted of 8 points and excluded from receiving any premiership points for the rest of the season; being fined $1.689m; and stripped of their 2007 and 2009 premierships and 2006, 2007 and 2008 minor premierships, the Melbourne Storm are back and primed for the a run at the flag.

In 2010, The Age referred the salary cap breach story as “the biggest scandal in Australian sports history”. The Storm lost several key players from their list including Greg Inglis (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Brett Finch (Wigan Warriors), Ryan Hoffman (Wigan Warriors), Dallas Johnson (North Queensland Cowboys), and Aiden Tolman (Canterbury Bulldogs) and several board members.

However, the Storm has hit back hard and is positioned nicely to claim the 2011 premiership. Coach Craig Bellamy has put the clubs revival down to attitude and mental strength, and camaraderie in the clubrooms.

Adding to the thoughts of Bellamy, Melbourne’s lesser known players have stepped up big this year to support Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.

The Melbourne Storm currently sits at the top of the ladder with 14 wins from 17 games played and has the best scores for and against record. Last week the Storm traveled to the capital city to take on the green machine – they walked away as the only team to keep Canberra scoreless, 26-0.

Sterlo – league great and ex-Footy Show star – ranks Melbourne as the third best chance for the flag behind St. George Illawarra and Manly; he places Brisbane fourth. I agree with Sterlo that these are the only teams who can challenge for the premiership, however, the Melbourne Storm in my opinion have the mindset that nothing will get in their way and that that mental toughness will play a major role in the final weeks of the 2011 season.

This week Melbourne host Brisbane in what will more than likely be Darren Lockyer’s final game in Melbourne; in round 25, the Storm go head to head against Manly in what may be a premiership preview.

The city of Melbourne is set for a big year of celebrations with Victorian teams winning the AFL and NRL premierships.

Do you agree or disagree?