Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
30 years on from an historic Grand Final - these two meet on ANZAC weekend.
The NRL's ANZAC Round kicks off in the Nation's Capital as the Raiders look to leave GIO Stadium on a high as they embark on a series of games on the road over the next month.
The Green Machine have looked solid throughout the opening seven rounds of the competition - most recently downing the Warriors in a tense clash last Saturday, also at GIO. Manly are in patchy form, however. After doing some damage to the Cowboys, Bulldogs and the then-unbeaten Roosters in consecutive weeks, the Sea Eagles have faired so well against competition front-runners St George Illawarra or Melbourne. As such they've fallen outside the top eight and will be keen to bounce back from those losses.
Of particular interest this week will be how Canberra coach Ricky Stuart will use his bench, having only called on 15 of his 17 in the 20-8 win over the Warriors. For Dunamis Lui and Adam Clydsdale, they'll be hoping they get a run this weekend assuming they stay in the unchanged side Stuart named.
The Raiders were in outstanding form when they downed Manly at Brookvale in the penultimate round of last year's competition. Overall between the clubs Manly hold a 30 wins to 20 advantage with one drawn in 51 games. At GIO Stadium Manly are dominant as well, winning eight to Canberra's six since the venue's opening in 1991. The most significant clash between these sides - the 1987 Grand Final - was won by Manly in the last decider ever played at the SCG.
Who to watch: Do we even need to say? Jordan Rapana & Joey Leilua are arguably the best backline combination in the competition at the moment. Between them in 2017 over seven matches so far they have 13 tries, 12 line breaks, 6 try assists, 92 tackle breaks, 22 offloads and over 2000 run metres. The task is simple for Manly - do what few teams have been able to do and shut this pair down.
If we've selected two men for the Green machine, their opponents deserve the same courtesy, agree? Tom and Jake Trbojevic have been crucial for the Sea Eagles. Jake led from the front in Manly's comeback against the Storm last Saturday, and although they fell short, his link up play with Tom was special to watch. Tom's taken to making the #1 maroon & white jersey his own. Averaging just under 200 metres per game and with 8 line breaks to his name across the opening seven rounds, there's no doubt he'll be starring for Manly if they can pick up the two points in Canberra on Friday.
1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Adam Clydsdale 15. Luke Bateman 16. Dunamis Lui 17. Iosia Soliola
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Brian Kelly 5. Akuila Uate 6. Blake Green 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Brenton Lawrence 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Frank Winterstein 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Lewis Brown 15. Jackson Hastings 17. Addin Fonua-blake 18. Nate Myles