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globalrugbyleague - Fri, 18 Apr 2008 13:54:00 GMT
The Phantom has a real feast of tactical dissection for all you league gurus this week.
The games I’ve chosen feature four NSW State of Origin hopefuls, all genuine chances of representing the Blues in Origin 1.
Enough of the speculation though. Let’s get down to business.
PARRAMATTA V MANLY
Friday April 18th, Parramatta Stadium
Kick-off: 7:30pm
Referee: Shayne Hayne


There is no better way to open up the heritage round proceedings then with a real rip snorter. And this clash is a genuine RIP SNORTER.
Long-time arch-rivals, these two teams played in the 1976 grand final which Manly won and then two years later the teams were engaged in two controversial semi finals, with the now infamous seven tackle tries the Sea Eagles scored against Parramatta in the semi, then the semi final replay.
Manly as you know went onto win the competition that year in 1978.
Then in 1982 and 1983 Parramatta had sweet revenge, downing the Sea Eagles in consecutive grand finals.
But in heritage weekend it's ''Back to the Future.''
This game asks three crucial questions.
What's wrong with Manly?
What's wrong with the Eels?
Who will win?
Manly has several factors for their form loss this season.
The loss of Michael Monaghan and Travis Burns has hurt them around the halves and aggressive centre Steve Matai is out injured. I have strong mail he may play tonight. Matai can cover centre or the back row.
Manly have Anthony Watmough (also known incorrectly as Michael in some other publications) out for a month with ankle trouble while Jamie Lyon has a corked leg.
Lyon won’t be receiving too many get well cards from Eels fans despite his great array of skill and talent.
Michael Monaghan's presence around the rucks took all the defensive heat off halfback Matt Orford.
Sometimes Monaghan played first receiver and Orford played on the other side of the ruck which gave them variety in attack.
Manly's forwards have lacked some aggression this year, although when Adam Cuthbertson enters the game from the interchange bench he adds plenty of spark and ball playing to the Manly pack.
He has a big future.
If Orford doesn't have a good game tonight, he won't even be a chance to play for City or Country Origin.
He needs a blinder.
For the Eels, Brett Finch is now clearly their best number seven and I like the fact he's paired with Feleti Mateo in the halves. The Eels can win the competition with this combination.
Finch should be signed to a three-year deal quick smart.
I think Finch will be the NSW halfback for Origin 1. He can handle the pressure and has done so twice before while also playing in two grand finals. Big games tend to bring out the best in him.
The Eels have more variety than Manly. Manly can attack well, when they learn to relax and let the ball flow.
But their biggest problem is inside the opponents 20m line. They run too many angles and run inside when they should run lines outside the defender. They are also too predictable with their kicks.
Steven Bell has a bad habit of cutting back inside playing right centre. He carries the ball in the left arm which means he can't palm a defender, so he has to use evasion and speed to find the space before the collision of the tackle. If I were Des Hasler I would switch him to left centre.
Parramatta need to find the rhythm and balance they showed last year. Hard yardage plays are required. Chad Robinson will help Nathan Cayless and Nathan Hindmarsh in this role.
Verdict:
The Eels at home in a high scoring encounter.

roosters V knights
Sunday April 20th, BlueTongue Stadium
Kick-off: 2:00pm
Referee: Steve Lyons

Two more halfbacks, Mitchell Pearce (Roosters) and Kurt Gidley (Knights) lay their claims for NSW honours.
Pearce is developing well, but let's give him another year or two.
Gidley has played for NSW and Australia. He is so versatile, fast, skilled, possesses good footwork, reads the play well, can play anywhere in the backline and he is a strong defender.
Gidley for mine will be on the interchange bench for NSW, as Craig Bellamy the NSW coach is a Danny Buderus fan and believes in club combinations.
The steady, reliable Finch and Buderus will start while Gidley I think will come from the bench.
The Knights are a work in progress. Coach Brian Smith is the sculptor/painter, working hard on his future masterpiece. He's prepared to be patient, having assembled the squad and types of footballers he wants under his mentorship.
Newcastle have been competitive in each of their five games. But crucial lapses in concentration and getting overpowered through the rucks have cost them dearly.
Roosters coach Brad Fittler is showing signs that we haven't seen from many coaches for a longtime - he loves the game. He gets cranky a tad when his team make mistakes or gets super excited when they put on good plays or score tries.
I like his approach. He was a super footballer, a consumate professional, but he still towards loved and enjoyed the game towards the end of his career. That's how he coaches.
Watch for Newcastle to work the short side and open up a wide blind to hit down the left and right edges of the Roosters defence.
Conversely, the Roosters will use the ''sledgehammer'' method in attack early, running big men at the smaller Knights halves, then spreading the ball through Pearce and Braith Anasta to their outside strike men in Amos Roberts, Sam Perrett and co out side.
Verdict:
Knights in an upset through tactical kicking and short side plays targeting the Roosters' edge of the field defence, The visitors by seven.
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