Brookvale Oval is home to muddy, dirty footy and in the first round of the year, when teams are still finding combinations and set plays, it’s sure to serve up a classic to start the season – Manly-Warringah and Canterbury-Bankstown, teams that have been known to get in to the grind, could serve us a 1980s classic in the very first round of the year.

LAST TIME OUT

Shutting out the Storm is always a good indicator of defensive form and that’s exactly what Canterbury did in their last trial game, winning 20-0 against a near full strength Melbourne outfit. They also had their most successful Nines performance ever with two wins from three.

Manly also had a trial win against the Ipswich Jets, but it is their unfortunate Nines campaign pundits were focussing on, with injuries to key utility Jamie Buhrer and hooker Jayden Hodges focal points of their time across the ditch.

KEY BATTLES

Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds will have the new pairing of Daly Cherry-Evans and Dylan Walker to contend with on Friday night. Both combinations are by and large untested but have huge potential and in a grind, it’s imperative to kick to corners and dominate possession, jobs down to the six and seven.

Another battle is the contest between the Bulldogs forwards and the new interchange rules: Manly’s pack is a slim, trim unit while the Bulldogs have reputation for saying size really does matter. Players claim that the Belmore boys are the slimmest since 2009, but have to let performance do the talking to validate their claim.

PREDICTION

The Bulldogs have it in them to take it to the new-look Manly side. Their halves have had more time to play and train together than Dylan Walker and “DCE”; the inexperience of Walker at 5/8 is what could tip this contest in favour of Canterbury and will have a big bearing on how the game shapes up, especially if the marquee Cherry-Evans is not at his best yet.

Bulldogs by 6.

SQUADS

Sea Eagles: 1 Brett Stewart 2 Jorge Taufua 3 Jamie Lyon (c) 4 Steve Matai 5 Tom Trbojevic 6 Dylan Walker 7 Daly Cherry-Evans 8 Jake Trbojevic 9 Apisai Koroisau 10 Nate Myles 11 Lewis Brown 12 Nathan Green 13 Martin Taupau. Interchange: 14 Matt Parcell 15 Blake Leary 16 Darcy Lussick 17 Feleti Mateo 18 Siosaia Vave

Bulldogs: 1 Will Hopoate 2 Curtis Rona 3 Josh Morris 4 Chase Stanley 5 Sam Perrett 6 Josh Reynolds 7 Moses Mbye 8 Aiden Tolman 9 Michael Lichaa 10 James Graham (c) 11 Josh Jackson 12 Tony Williams 13 Greg Eastwood. Interchange: 14 Sam Kasiano 15 Danny Fualalo 16 Tim Browne 17 Adam Elliott 19 Shaun Lane

Referees: Gerard Sutton, Matt Noyen