THE easiest story this week has been to talk about the pure hatred between Manly and Melbourne. Grand finals won, lost, won off the back of systematically reaming the salary cap and all of that.
They way it's been talked about, you would've thought the Battle of Brookvale was the final fight scene in Braveheart.
The truth is that these two sides have become so familiar with each other that Sea Eagles back-rower Anthony Watmough likens tonight's adversary to family.
"It's like your playing your cousin in a game of footy," he says. "We know each other that well. You can't hide the fact that there's that much history between us. We've had so many great games and encounters. We play the best footy against each other. They've belted us, we've belted them. We are two teams that have been the benchmark. We get the best out of each other. There is a mutual footy respect."
2012: Battle of Brookvale rematch - Glenn Stewart, one of the punished brawlers in the Battle of Brookvale 12 months earlier, receives a serious knee injury in this highly anticipated clash in which the Storm takes the honours 26-22.
That isn't too hard to believe.
When Des Hasler was at the helm of Manly, you would often spy him and Storm coach Craig Bellamy sharing a sneaky Crown Lager after another game.
Both clubs have traversed enough tricky terrain since they played each other in the 2007 and 2008 grand finals to arrive at a point, right now, that sees them more battle-hardened than fly-blown.
Manly have grappled with the sex assault allegations levelled against fullback Brett Stewart, and lost Hasler within days of winning last year's premiership - but haven't missed a beat without him.
2011: Battle of Brookvale - The most infamous match in recent memory. Melbourne and Manly players erupt in a brawl as Darcy Lussick and Ryan Hinchcliffe trade blows before Adam Blair and Glenn Stewart are sent to the sin bin for running in and escalating the incident. The pair trade blows again on their way to the sin bin. It ended with four Manly players suspended and Blair rubbed out for the season.
They aren't limping to back-to-back premierships, but doing it like warriors.
Captain Jamie Lyon was so busted that his teammates didn't know if he would play, right up until the captain's run the day before the game.
Then he came out and produced his best display in recent memory.
His ability to snuff out a possible try to Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen in the second half last Friday night was lost amid the outrage over the performance of the match officials.
2008: Manly's revenge - Manly great Steve Menzies is given the perfect send-off at the end of his NRL career as the Sea Eagles take revenge on the Storm for their loss in the grand final 12 months earlier. Manly are never challenged in this encounter and run away 40-0 premiers.
Manly did not win pretty, but they are still here.
They will not fear Melbourne, yet they will respect them.
How the Storm have managed to hold themselves together after the NRL blowtorched them for cheating the salary cap suggests they have the same strength of character as their so-called cousins.
Watmough reveals there was instant fury among his teammates when the Storm's salary cap rorting was revealed in April 2010, but it quickly dissolved.
2007: Storm's greatest day - The grand final between the top two teams, Storm and Sea Eagles, is in the balance with Melbourne ahead 10-4 when Storm enforcer Michael Crocker knocks out Manly fullback Brett Stewart after grabbing a high ball. Stewart stays off and Melbourne wins 34-8. The Storm are later stripped of this premiership following a series of salary cap rorts.
"At the time, we were like, 'Give me my ring'," recalls Watmough. "But now? It's done and dusted. It was unfortunate and it's over. We got pounded, and then we beat them fair and square in the 2008 grand final (by a record margin of 40-0). We're just lucky we didn't get done twice."
Push Watmough a little harder and he still won't bite. Were they dudded?
"I don't know," he says. "I just wanted to forget it to tell you the truth. I'd played the worst game of my life in that game. They won it, they might not be on the trophy but they have the rings and there is nothing we can do about it."
By its very nature, rugby league is usually seen in terms of its rivalries in Club Land. The league manufactures it through its rivalry round.
2007: A rivalry intensifies - Manly are on top of the ladder when they meet Melbourne in round 13 at Brookvale Oval. The match is remembered for sickening injuries to George Rose and Billy Slater, which neither side would forget about.
Scratch beneath the surface between last year's all-in brawl at Brookvale Oval and even that one has a reason behind it.
That reason is Adam Blair, the Storm back-rower who enraged Manly players for years with some of his tactics, referred to by other players as "dog shots".
Asked this week if his side would draft in Blair (who joined Wests Tigers this season) for the preliminary final, Storm captain Cameron Smith laughed: "We don't want any of that. We want a nice clean game of footy. Looking at the match earlier this year between us and them at Brookvale, it was a great game of football. There was talk about a stink being on again, but both sides handled it really well."
During that sideline altercation late last year, Watmough had tried his best to quell hostilities.
"I'm a peacemaker," he laughs, before adding in reference to a story in The Daily Telegraph last week naming him as one of Manly's nigglers: "I don't know how I am one of the nigglers. How could I niggle anyone? I just stand there and dance around. What happened last year is done and dusted. Stop trying to get a headline."