What an excellent start to the season Manly has had. A gloom and doom merchant like myself has been rendered speechless by a 4 wins in five matches and some high profile scalps taken a long the way. We find ourselves proudly atop the NRL ladder and entering into a game where we are raging hot favourites. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s been a long time between drinks. However, let us be under no illusions. Whilst weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ve started well and the form of some of our players has been outstanding, the game this Sunday represents a significant hurdle for the side. A defeat this weekend could be devastating for morale and could have major ramifications for our side as we start to think about finals football. LetÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s take a look at the sides clashing this Sunday and the ramifications of this game. There is much at stake and we would do well to not write the Rabbitohs off easily. If our team arrive at lunchtime on Sunday with any hint of complacency or any thoughts of easy victory we could all be in for a very long afternoon. HereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s why: This is a different Rabbits side to the one we lapped at North Sydney Oval late last season. For a start Shaun McCrae is a credentialed coach who has instilled some steel into the side over the off season. DonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t be fooled by the RabbitsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ capitulation to the Panthers last weekend. Keep in mind that the previous weekend they had hammered a Newcastle side containing the so-called worldÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s best player and have also lowered the colours of a Parramatta side in emphatic fashion. When they are hot they are hot, and if they turn up hot to Brookvale it will take all of our resources to keep them in check. The team has talent. At the beginning of the season a hybrid team of the Manly and Souths sides would probably looks as follows: 1. B Stewart 2. A McDougall 3. S Hegarty 4. T Hill 5. L McDougall 6. M Monaghan 7. J Williams 8. B Kite 9. S Dunley 10. B Fletcher 11. A Harrison 12. S Menzies 13. B Kennedy Nearly half the side from the Rabbitohs. The stellar form of Watmough in the early part of the season would now probably get him into the side ahead of Harrison and you could make a case for the tireless Heckenberg ahead of an aging Fletcher, but the point remains that they have significant talent and are probably better resourced in the outside backs than we are. They have added size to their squad this year and there could be fireworks up front as the likes of Kite, Heckenberg, Leuluai and King clash with Geddes, Logan and friends. Williams is a slippery customer and our administration chased his signature very hard last year, make no mistake. Hegarty is an experienced international and the Rabbits always seem to play better when Adam McDougall is on hand to eat up yardage as a seventh forward. It is not a side to take lightly. Then we need to consider our own stocks. I think it highly unlikely that Kennedy will play a major role in this game, if any. Kennedy has been inspirational in recent weeks and his energy and on-field talk have been integral to our success. With Hill still injured we have relied on him to rally the troops and keep the communication going across the defensive line. However, backing up from the Test match on Friday night, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s hard to imagine that heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ll be asked to play three games in the space of a week, given ManlyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s Friday Night Football encounter with the Broncos next round. Next week could also prove to be a distraction for our players. It has been seven long years since Manly has played in the spotlight of Friday Night Football and there could be a risk that our playerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s minds will be on the clash with the Broncos rather than the task at hand. Our outside backs have performed adequately in recent weeks but they will need to be on their mettle as theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re faced with a sprinkling of international players and quicksilver journeymen. The last time Stephenson faced up to an international centre (in the game against the Dragons) he had a tough night. A report of his shoulder grabbing efforts will be punished by Hegarty and McDougall. He will need to be on his mettle. ManlyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s form in games televised on free-to-air television has been very poor in recent years. LetÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s hope that the team can play to the maximum of their capacity this weekend and put the Bunnies to the sword. The mark of a good side is when theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re able to capably take on the lesser sides and conquer them. Narrow escapes do very little for confidence and nothing will prick the current bubble of success than falling to the underdogs from South Sydney this weekend. Manly must win if it is to be considered a force in this yearÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s competition! Key match-ups: Monaghan vs Williams: Monaghan gets to suit up against the man that nearly took his number 7 jumper this season. Both players have been in very good form recently and are integral to their sides fortunes. Whoever emerges on top in this battle is likely to be on the winning team. Menzies vs Fletcher: A battle of the veterans, both of whom bring much to their side. Menzies is always ready to run into space and find the try line whilst Fletcher plays it tough in the middle and creates opportunities for other runners with his offloads. Menzies would dearly love to walk away from Brookvale with a brace or more of tries. King versus Logan: Both are big mobile men that will come off the bench after the early exchanges. King is returning from injury and was poor last weekend. Logan is still finding his feet after returning from the English Super League. If either fires up you will see them bending back the opposition defensive line and creating havoc close to the line.