Date: Saturday 8th March
Kick-off: 7:00pm (Sydney time)
Sea Eagles: Brett Stewart, Cheyse Blair, Jamie Lyon (c), Steve Matai, Peta Hiku, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh Starling, Matt Ballin. Brenton Lawrence, Anthony Watmough, Justin Horo, Glenn Stewart. Interchange: Jesse Sene-Lefao, James Hasson, Jamie Buhrer, Dunamis Lui
Storm: Billy Slater, Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Mahe Fonua, Young Tonumaipea, Ben Hampton, Ben Roberts, Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith (c), Bryan Norrie, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Hoffman. Ryan Hinchcliffe. Interchange: Kenny Bromwich, Tohu Harris, Jordan McLean, George Rose, Mitch Garbutt, Slade Griffin, Joel Romelo
What a mouth-watering fixture this is; arguably the match of the round. Manly and Melbourne are fierce rivals and have been the most successful teams over the last decade. They have both set the benchmark in consistency and their past contests have been extremely physical and spiteful, especially the infamous ‘Battle of Brookvale’ match in 2011.
Cooper Cronk’s absence will be a massive factor in this match. It means former Canterbury and Parramatta halfback Ben Roberts will partner Ben Hampton in a new-look halves combination. They will be up against the might of Kieren Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans, a very daunting task indeed.
Manly are missing players too, though, with first-choice wingers David Williams (knee) and Jorge Taufua (shoulder) out injured. Cheyse Blair and Peta Hiku will be their replacements. Co-captain Jason King is also out with a torn pectoral muscle, weakening the usually strong forward pack.
Cult hero George Rose will get a spot on the bench and have the added incentive of playing against his former team but it will be interesting to see what his reception is from the Brookvale crowd.
On a sidenote, Cameron Smith will become equal most capped Storm player in the club’s history, joining Matt Geyer on 262 games.
I think Foran and Cherry-Evans will overwhelm Melbourne’s halves and with home ground advantage, Manly has the edge.
Tip: Manly by 10.