2021 NRL Prelim Final Preview, Rabbitohs Vs Sea Eagles

Nathan Smith previews the preliminary final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. This is what we have to look forward to.

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Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Date: Friday, 24th of September, Time: 7:50pm

South Sydney Rabbitohs Team

1. Blake Taaffe
2. Alex Johnson
3. Dane Gagai
4. Campbell Graham
5. Jaxson Paulo
6. Cody Walker
7. Adam Reynolds
8. Mark Nicholls
9. Damien Cook
10. Tevita Tatola
11. Keaon Koloamatangi
12. Jaydn Su’A
13. Cameron Murray
14. Benji Marshall
15. Jacob Host
16. Thomas Burgess
17. Jai Arrow
18. Taane Milne
19. Patrick Mago
20. Braidon Burns
21. Jed Cartwright

Team Changes

IN: Braiden Burns, Jed Cartwright, Taane Milne

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Team

1. Tom Trbojevic
2. Jason Saab
3. Brad Parker
4. Morgan Harper
5. Reuben Garrick
6. Kieran Foran
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
8. Josh Aloiai
9. Lachlan Croker
10. Martin Taupau
11. Haumole Olakau’atu
12. Josh Schuster
13. Jake Trbojevic
14. Dylan Walker
15. Karl Lawton
16. Sean Keppie
17. Taniela Paseka
18. Toafofoa Sipley
19. Moses Suli
20. Curtis Sironen
21. Tevita Funa

Team Changes

IN: Curtis Sironen, Tevita Funa, Toafofoa Sipley

Referee: Ashley Klein


South Sydney Rabbitohs

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South Sydney have had the luxury of a weekend off after their shock win against the Penrith Panthers in the first round of the 2021 NRL finals series. Freshened up and full of confidence from that win, they will prove a difficult opponent to defeat.

Their team list has no surprises, with Wayne Bennett naming the same 17 that did battle two weeks ago.

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

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Though they didn’t get the week off, Manly’s path towards this match hasn’t been too difficult, given they posted a huge 42-6 win over a depleted Sydney Roosters team last week. With their attack back to its best after a lacklustre opening round of the finals, this Friday’s game promises to be a spectacle.

Manly have named the same 17 that ran out last week, with no injury concerns to speak of. With the match out of reach well before the 80th minute, Des Hasler was able to rest a few star players to ensure there would be no niggles coming out of the game.


A preliminary final can be a cruel beast. The game before the grand final; the one that decides who gets to go one more week, and who goes home. If you get this far, you’re close enough to half visualise the premiership trophy in your hands. If you lose? You’ve had a good season and come crushingly close, yet in the end, have nothing to show for it.

Ask South Sydney. This is their fourth straight preliminary final. They’ve failed to take that extra step in the last three. Last year, Damien Cook’s tears laid bare the anguish felt by him and his teammates as they were doomed to wait another season for this opportunity. For them, a loss this week would be a failed season.

Manly? Well after four rounds, they were everyone’s pick for the wooden spoon. Then Tom Trbojevic returned from injury and put on one of the best solo acts since the likes of Ben Barba in 2012 or Jarryd Hayne in 2009. This is a team that came 13th in 2020. A team whose coach was under pressure to keep his job. They could well be proud of their efforts so far, but then, now that they’re here, why not one step further?

South Sydney have plenty to play for. Their coach Wayne Bennett leaves at the season’s end after what has been a typically successful stint at his fourth NRL club. The one thing missing, of course, is a premiership. The big departure is club legend, and highest point scorer, Adam Reynolds. He helped them break a 43 year drought in 2014 by guiding them to their last premiership. Every single player that puts on that Rabbitohs jersey will be gunning to see him out with one more.

Manly have had a good run of success over the past few decades. Since the 1970s, they’ve won at least one premiership in every decade that has followed. The last time they were there was exactly ten years ago, when a fresh faced Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran helped guide them to their seventh title. A decade later, the now well experienced halves are back together, and looking for number eight.

South Sydney have class and striker power right across the park. When comparing lineups, it’s their team that seemingly outshines the opposition. You have the likes of Dane Gagai and Cody Walker in the back-line, who can strike from anywhere, while Damien Cook and Cameron Murray will be firing from the front. If the Rabbitohs get into their rhythm, their attack can turn into a landslide of points.

For Manly, their fortunes will be firmly planted on the shoulders of Tom Trbojevic. That’s not to disrespect his teammates, who are all solid competitors, but rather to emphasise just how good he is. When he’s on, he’s not only the best player in the game, he’s unstoppable. In 17 games he’s scored 27 tries, offered 28 try assists, made 117 tackle breaks and averaged 216 running metres per game. You could combine the stats of some players in the game and they wouldn’t read like this. If he’s on, Manly’s a huge chance.


The overall head to head form favours Manly, but only just: they’ve won 77 of their 146 encounters. They met once, earlier this year, which saw South Sydney win 26-12. The last time Manly defeated South Sydney was way back in April of 2019, which saw them win by a single point at 13-12. That same year, the Rabbitohs beat them 34-26 in a semi-final encounter. If Manly want to win, there’s a bit of recent history between the sides that they will need to put behind them.


Both sides have plenty of points in them and that will be on display Friday night. The end result will largely come down to whether South Sydney can replicate their defensive efforts from two weeks ago, especially on Tom Trbojevic. For Manly, they have their work cut out for them, given South Sydney has a myriad of attacking threats that can strike at any moment. In a close match, this one could end in an upset, with Manly winning off of the back of some Trbojevic magic.

Manly by 4

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