Grand final day would be perfect chance for Bulldogs and Sea Eagles to settle a grudge
by: Ricky Stuart – August 12, 2012

WHAT is it about Manly and this time of year?

You look at the top eight, you look at every team pushing towards the finals and you sense the Sea Eagles are up to their old tricks.

Should we be surprised? It’s certainly a familiar story. They’re winners, this mob.

No doubt every other team inside the eight would be looking at Manly after their performance against Souths Sydney last Friday night.

It’s the maturity of this side that I notice. It’s the one ingredient you need going into the finals series.

And Manly, well, they’ve got it by the truckload.

Jamie Lyon, Anthony Watmough, Steve Matai, Jason King, the Stewart brothers, Matt Ballin, Brent Kite … do I need to keep going?

You can’t ignore the two halves Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans, two young enthusiastic and extremely skilful players who have done this all before.

The thing about Manly is, like the Bulldogs, their attitude is nearly always A1.

It used to be that ballwork and weights sessions were the most important facets of training. You can throw in mental strength, too. Attitude to preparation is crucial.

So is it too early to say we could have a Manly-Canterbury grand final?

Probably not.

I get the feeling we haven’t seen the best of Manly. On Friday night, it looked like they were being legged back aboard the horse. I reckon they’re about to pull the whip.

The biggest influence on Manly in previous seasons was always Brett Stewart. He was their X-factor. He gave them impracticability, the type of attack that every opposition team can’t plan for.

Now they’ve got double the trouble.

How I would have loved to have seen Jamie pushing fellow centres Josh Morris and Michael Jennings in the sky blue of NSW this year.

I tried to sway him, but Jamie made the decision not to play rep football a while back.

You can’t knock him for sticking to his word.

He’s the class centre of the competition, but he’s more than that to his teammates.

Jamie is a leader. The boy from Wee Waa might not be the most eloquent talker, but there’s no doubt his actions speak more than words.

The Manly players clearly respect him.

Jamie is at the peak of his powers and I reckon his decision to skip Origin is a major factor.

Look at the clubs and their key men. All played Origin and all have struggled for one reason or another.

Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Paul Gallen have all struggled coming out of the Origin period.

But this bloke, he’s as fresh as a daisy.

There’s not a centre in the competition that has a bigger bearing on his side than Lyon.

I suppose the only danger for Manly, like every team, is judiciary and injury.

Time will tell.

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