Crikey’s NRL Hot Form Chart

What is it about a team full of Queenslanders and Kiwis, calling itself Melbourne that seems to so infuriate certain sections of the rugby league media? So much so in fact that luminaries like Tommy Raudonikis finds themselves in the camp of the silvertails as we prepare for the grand final. Oh, the irony.

In truth, the Storm have not covered themselves in glory since dispatching with Cronulla last week and most sentiment is well and truly behind Manly to reverse last year’s GF result. And the Sea Eagles are every chance of doing just that as, unlike 2007, they head into the season decider with form and favouritism on their side. But will it be enough to topple their super bogey team from down south?

Melbourne Team Manly
L-W-L-W-W Last 5 games W-W-W-W-W
W-L-W-W-W Last 5 head to head L-W-L-L-L
W-L-W-W-L Last five at venue W-L-L-L-W
23.9 Av. pts for 27.4
11.7 Av. pts against 13.3
$2.10 Sportsbet odds $1.72
Win by 13+, $5.25 Value GF bet Brett Stewart first try scorer, $10

The three keys for Melbourne:

  1. Smith, C. His absence was the catalyst for much bellyaching on both sides of the Murray, but the real issue will be how Melbourne deal with the loss of its captain and one of the best players in the NRL. Plenty of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of other senior players as well as stand-in dummy-half Russell Aitken. If the 23-year-old can hold his own and the Storm break even at the play the ball, Melbourne’s superior backs could have the final say.
  2. Cronk. The halfback played his best game of the season last week and needs to repeat the performance against the Sea Eagles if the Storm are any chance of going back-to-back. Much more dangerous when he runs at the defence and increases his options, so look for Cronk to have a few darts at the Manly line before trying to open things up for his outside men.
  3. Inglis. We haven’t seen ‘GI time’ yet, which is ominous because we hadn’t seen it this time last year either. Inglis went on to dominate that match, winning the Clive Churchill medal and blowing the game open from early on. Manly must simply stop the freakish five-eighth from having anywhere near as much influence if it hopes to turn the tables on Melbourne.

The three keys for Manly:

  1. Emotion. Steve Menzies is Manly and the club would love nothing more than sending the man they call Beaver off with a premiership. Of course, such motivation can run dry pretty quickly, but it may give the Sea Eagles a crucial edge when the contest starts and the blood is well and truly up.
  2. Orford. Happy times against his former club have been few and far between for Orford. He simply needs to turn it on — and quash the perception that he cannot perform in big games — if the Sea Eagles are to lift the trophy. In many ways, the half is the most critical player on the field for either team.
  3. Kite. The forward battle is an obvious key and big Sea Eagle Brent Kite is the man Manly turn to first to get them moving in the right direction. Off-loads is one area Manly have it all over the Storm and if Kite can gain metres and dish off some ball to a few running players, he becomes a potent weapon.

And the winner is…  The silvertails are much better placed than last year and come up against an under-siege Storm outfit missing its most influential player. Melbourne have the wood on the Sea Eagles but even its considerable fire power won’t save it this time. Manly by seven points.

Peter Fray

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