Julian Vella previews this genuine grudge match between two sides with plenty of hate, and plenty of history, as the Manly Sea Eagles host the Newcastle Knights at Brookvale Oval.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Manly have so far endured an up and down season as they’ve mixed eye-catching wins with underwhelming performances. The last two weeks have portrayed this perfectly as Manly produced one of the grittiest performances in their proud club history with a brave victory over Canberra in round six. They then followed that game up with a performances that could only be described as ‘meek’, as they let the struggling Cronulla Sharks run in over 40 points against them last week.
Season 2020 had been one of positive vibes for Newcastle going into last week’s match against the North Queensland Cowboys. The Knights were sitting in the top three and had only lost the one game (to the Melbourne Storm), so no one saw a 26-0 halftime deficit coming, or did they? Knights’ coach Adam O’Brien suggested his side were getting ahead of themselves, claiming “We’re not as good as we think we are.” Those words rang true as a complacent Knights were blown off the park.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Manly welcome back barnstorming centre Moses Suli who returns from a finger injury; he takes the place of utility back Brendan Elliot. Coach Des Hasler has again named Martin Taupau in the starting side, although he has started him off the bench on more than one occasion this season, so don’t be surprised to see another late change.
1. Reuben Garrick 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Brad Parker 4. Moses Suli 5. Tevita Funa 6. Lachlan Croker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Danny Levi 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Cade Cust 15. Jack Gosiewski 16. Sean Keppie 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Morgan Boyle 19. Brendan Elliot 20. Abbas Miski 21. Haumole Olakau’atu.
The Knights have made a couple of changes to their side that was resoundingly beaten last week; rookie sensation Bradman Best returns from his COVID-19 isolation in place of Gehmat Shibasaki. Origin forward Tim Glasby, who again picked up a HIA last week, has been rested this week and sent for tests; his spot on the bench is taken by youngster Pasami Saulo who will make his first appearance of the season.
1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Sione Mata’utia 13. Herman Ese’ese 14. Tex Hoy 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Aidan Guerra 17. Pasami Saulo 18. Tautau Moga 19. Brodie Jones 20. Phoenix Crossland 21. Josh King.
Manly tried their very best to get this match moved to Brookvale Oval after it was originally scheduled to play out of Central Coast Stadium in Gosford. Taking a look at the meetings between these two sides at ‘Fortress Brookie’, it’s not hard to see why: from the 20 times they’ve played there, Manly have won 17.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Addin Fonua-Blake v David Klemmer
When you think of Manly v Newcastle it’s almost certain memories of Mark ‘Spud’ Carroll v Paul ‘the Chief’ Harragon are the first thing that flood to your mind. The foundations of the fierce rivalry between these clubs were built on the clashes and confrontations between those two fiery leaders, and although those gladiators are long retired, a couple of new firebrands are starting to forge their own rivalry.
Manly enforcer Addin Fonua-Blake and Knights big man David Klemmer are in the top echelon of props in the NRL; neither player ever takes a backwards step and they both always take it upon themselves to lead the way for the rest of the side. When you put two bulls like this in the same arena, they’re both certain to see red.
This was the case last season when Manly beat Newcastle in their own backyard in a spiteful clash; needless to say Fonua-Blake was at the forefront of Manly’s fast start as the Sea Eagles blew the Knights off the park in the first 20 minutes. Fonua-Blake then turned protagonist as he went head-to-head not only with Klemmer but the Knights’ vocal home crowd.
The image of Fonua-Blake antagonising the crowd will no doubt be etched into the memory of the fans and Klemmer, and he will no doubt be looking for a get square with his opposite number this Sunday afternoon. The Fonua-Blake v Klemmer rivalry still has a long way to go to be talked about in the same breath as Spud v Chief, but the sight of two big angry men from these fierce rivals going head-to-head warms an old rugby league heart.
You’d be better off flicking a coin to see who’s going to win this match: going into last week both sides were riding high after good wins, whilst this week both are licking their wounds after heavy defeats. The void left by Tom Trbojevic might once again prove one too big to fill, so with very little confidence I’m tipping the Knights.
Newcastle by one.
Date: Sunday, July 5th.
Venue: Brookvale Oval, Brookvale.
Kick-off: 4:00pm AEST.