Dirty Eagles

Winging it
After two clean losses, Sea Eagles are starting to talk dirty again

Glenn Jackson | August 30, 2007

Their regular poker nights notwithstanding, yesterday turned out to be the day the Sea Eagles began to truly up the stakes as they head into the NRL finals.

Try telling the Sea Eagles their clash with St George Illawarra on Sunday is irrelevant. Even though they are immoveable from their second position on the NRL ladder win, lose or draw against the Dragons, they are treating the match as they would a final. After two consecutive losses, coach Des Hasler said a win was "paramount".

"It's about really starting to put it together now," Hasler said. "We want to win every game, but winning this one against St George [Illawarra] at home is paramount in our mindset.

"A dress rehearsal is probably not a bad way to phrase it."

Despite being one of favourites to take out the title this season, Manly are limping into the final round following losses to South Sydney and the Warriors. Sea Eagles players yesterday spoke of the need to lift, with a home final the following Saturday night around the corner.

"We'll be treating this like our first semi, trying to gain a bit of momentum into the semi-finals," fullback Brett Stewart said. "The last thing we want to be doing is going into a semi-final with three [losses] on the trot. Hopefully, it's a grinding game because that's what semi-finals are like.

"It'll be good to get a taste of that before we get into it."

It won't be pretty, though. To swing the momentum back in their favour, they're prepared to get dirty.

"We've just got to starting grinding them out again," second-rower Anthony Watmough said. "Earlier in the year, we were winning ugly - only winning by two or four points but we still felt we were doing it pretty pretty comfortably. We'll get it back.

"It's just learning to be a bit more composed. We've played some frustrated footy at times. If we can just learn to keep our heads cool and just take the hit-up instead of trying to offload the ball, then we're going to go a long way towards winning the game."

Asked about the Sea Eagles' prospects in the finals, Watmough said: "We're going to try and take on St George [Illawarra] first. We sort of started getting a bit ahead of ourselves."

Halfback Matt Orford said: "We've just kicked ourselves in the butt a few times the last two weeks just by doing simple mistakes. We're just doing too much defensive work.

"We've just got to get back to basics - do our processes and stick to our systems and just go out there with the attitude to do whatever it takes. Individually and as a team, we've just been doing some really stupid things. It's just discipline, concentration and attention to detail." The Sea Eagles deny they have been complacent, however, even after Hasler's decision to sideline five players for last Sunday's game against the Warriors. Still, they have already met this week to ensure they are well focused on defeating the Dragons and, as importantly, stringing 80 minutes together in the process.

"You don't win the competition playing for 60 minutes," hooker Michael Monaghan said.

"That's one thing we've really got to fix up, making sure we play for the full 80. There hasn't been too many games where we have.

"It's probably the sign of a good side that you can get away [with it] when you don't play quality footy 80 minutes, but in semi-finals, against the quality teams, you won't get away with it too often - it could be the difference between winning and losing."

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