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Storm damage breathes new life into Sea Eagles' aspirations

Discussion in 'Rugby League Forum' started by Berkeley_Eagle, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. Berkeley_Eagle

    Berkeley_Eagle Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan

    +2,125 /14
    Storm damage breathes new life into Sea Eagles' aspirations

    Jamie Pandaram and Adrian Proszenko | August 8, 2008

    Manly have risen to new heights and Melbourne have been one reason, report Jamie Pandaram and Adrian Proszenko.

    It should have been the death knell for Manly's confidence - a comprehensive defeat at the hands of their grand final conquerors in round five which prompted many to claim that Melbourne had the wood on them.

    "Those people who want to talk about that sort of stuff can, I don't get caught up in it," Sea Eagles stalwart Steve Menzies said yesterday. "We had faith in our ability. We were confident in what we were doing and it has shown."

    And how. Since the 26-4 loss on April 11, Manly have won 12 of their 14 games and surged to the top of the table.

    Rather than fill them with self-doubt, that loss seems to have breathed new life into the Sea Eagles. But they now must confront their demons, and Storm captain Cam Smith says they're still hurting.

    "I know how they'd be feeling, especially after 2006 when the Broncos beat us in the grand final," he said. "All we wanted to do in 2007 was to beat them. To lose in the grand final [to us] and lose again earlier this year, it would hurt even more.

    "They wouldn't want to come out and disappoint their home crowd at Brookvale."

    With game-breakers Jamie Lyon and Anthony Watmough sidelined, and the premiers at full strength, Manly appear to be staring at a third successive loss to Melbourne. Until their record at home is considered.

    The last time Melbourne tasted success at Brookvale Oval, Menzies was playing beside Cliff Lyons and Geoff Toovey, and common folk were wary of the Y2K bug. It was 1999 and it took a field goal from then Storm halfback Brett Kimmorley in the dying stages to seal a 19-18 victory.

    "I think the home-ground advantage does make a difference, if you ask anyone they'll tell you they like playing at home," Menzies said. "The enjoyment you get from playing at your home ground and the crowd behind you definitely gives you that extra five or 10 per cent lift."

    Smith agreed. "We sort of struggled a bit up in Brookvale the last couple of years, last year Manly got away with a one-point win when Matty Orford kicked a field goal.

    "It's always a tough ask to go up there and put in a strong performance. But after last Friday [44-4 win over Gold Coast], we performed really well and took a huge step forward compared to what we dished out against the Warriors. If we can put in a similar performance we'll give ourselves an opportunity to win."

    For Manly, the key is maintaining focus after the first quarter, said Menzies, who was critical of the drop in intensity from his team against the Storm in their previous two encounters.

    "I think it's going to be really important to compete for the full 80 minutes," he said.

    "The last couple of times we have played them we have done well for the first 20 minutes and then fallen off through errors and ill-discipline, and that is compounded against a side like Melbourne who will make you pay for mistakes."

    This match has been billed as a grand final preview and the players are feeling the heat. The veteran Menzies and the general Smith conceded that tonight's winning team would likely claim the minor premiership.

    "I don't get too nervous for normal games but this is probably one of the bigger club games of the season, first versus second," Menzies said.

    "There is still a couple of weeks to go but we've got to win this one [to finish first].

    "We're two points ahead of them, they can obviously catch us and it'd go down to for and against, but if we win that would would help us.

    "This game will give us a good indication of how we're travelling. We are on top but they had three losses during Origin [series] when they had 10 players out so I think they are still the team to beat."

    Smith, who has led the Storm to the past two minor premierships, said a loss would kill their chances for a hat-trick.

    "It's a massive game for us, it's a big game for Manly, too," he said. "They're ahead of everyone else at the moment, with their for and against as well.

    "We need to win this game to have any chance of winning the minor premiership. If we win … in a close game they're still ahead of us on for and against.

    "They would take out the minor premiership [if we lose].

    "Certainly the winner will take a lot of confidence out of it. It's been fairly tight between the clubs over the past couple of years.

    "Winning up in Brookvale will be a pretty big thing for us. Especially [next] week, coming up against the Roosters at home, it'll give us a shot of winning three minor premierships in a row."

    And if the Storm break their Brookie hoodoo, they'll be partying like it was 1999.

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