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globalrugbyleague - Sat, 22 Sep 2007 11:10:00 GMT
The Phantom has dissected the grand final qualifiers and predicts the Sea Eagles and Storm to play in the premiership decider next weekend.

I have believed all year that Manly would win the competition and nothing at the moment has come close to convincing me otherwise.

Twelve months ago if you remember I stated on the record that the Sea Eagles were a year away from a title. Their time has come.

MANLY V NORTH QLD
Aussie Stadium
Saturday September 22nd
Referee: Paul Simpkins
GRL Tip: Manly


SEA EAGLES: Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Steve Bell, Steve Matai, Chris Hicks, Jamie Lyon, Matt Orford (c), Jason King, Michael Monaghan, Brent Kite, Anthony Watmough, Glenn Stewart, Luke Williamson Interchange: Travis Burns, Glenn Hall, Mark Bryant, Steve Menzies, Matt Ballin, Jack Afamasaga, Adam Cuthbertson Coach: Des Hasler

COWBOYS: Matt Bowen, Ty Williams, Ashley Graham, Paul Bowman, Ben Farrar, Justin Smith, Johnathan Thurston (c), Matt Scott, Aaron Payne, Carl Webb Sam Faust, Matthew Bartlett, Mark Henry Interchange: David Faiumu, Jason Smith, Jacob Lillyman, Ray Cashmere, Neil Sweeney, Ben Vaeau (two to be omitted) Coach: Graham Murray

MANLY:

Strengths:

The Sea Eagles are athletic, tough and contain robust forwards. Defensively across the ground, Manly are very strong.

Their advance, hold, hold, then tackle line of defence has suffocated teams this year.

In attack, Manly work the ``middle third'' of the field well and their speedsters such as Brent Stewart, Chris Hicks, Michael Robertson and Steve Menzies, all know how to chase kicks and score tries or fly into space once the original incision is made.

Weaknesses:

At times in attack, Manly tend to overplay their hand in the opposition quarter-line.

Matt Orford can sometimes pass when he should run, kick when he should have passed, and run, when he should have popped the ball out to a supporting teammate.

Jamie Lyon tends to drifft across field and push his outside supports towards the sideline and out of room.

Lyon has been chosen at five-eighth but I prefer him at left centre.

Watch him rotate with Steve Matai in attack on the left hand side of the field and don’t forget to take note of coach Des Hasler using Menzies at number 6, Lyon at left centre and Matai in the back row.

Manly's big forwards can also be exploited laterally by dummy half runners.


NORTH QUEENSLAND:

Strengths:

Aaron Payne, David Faiumu, Jason Smith, Jonathon Thurston, Ashley Graham and Matt Bowen are the strength of the Cowboys.

Wherever the ball goes in attack it involves these players.

Matt Scott has been a tower of strength in the pack this year, he's even playing better than when he was selected for Queensland in the 2006 State of Origin series.

Weaknesses:

The Cowboys' helter-skelter style of play can tire them out and create errors, sloppy play the balls, silly off-loads which in the end all add up to errors.

If they make mistakes Manly will literally graft them away.

Verdict:

Manly by seven.

MELBOURNE V PARRAMATTA
Telstra Dome
Sunday September 23rd, 4pm
Referee: Tony Archer
GRL Tip: Storm



STORM: Billy Slater, Steve Turner, Matt King, Israel Folau, Anthony Quinn, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk, Ben Cross, Cam Smith (c), Brett White, Clint Newton, Ryan Hoffman, Dallas Johnson Interchange: Jeremy Smith, Matt Geyer, Michael Crocker, Jeff Lima, James Aubusson, Garret Crossman Coach: Craig Bellamy

EELS: Jarryd Hayne, Krisnan Inu, Joel Reddy, Timana Tahu, Eric Grothe, Brett Finch, Tim Smith, Nathan Cayless (c), Mark Riddell, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Ian Hindmarsh, Feleti Mateo Interchange: PJ Marsh, Josh Cordoba, Chad Robinson, Daniel Wagon Coach: Michael Hagan

PARRAMATTA

Strengths:

I like the way they are coached and have played this year. There is skill, science and a fearless nature to their team.

Young players such as Jarryd Hayne, Feleti Mateo, Krisnan Inu are fearless.

The senior players are also in top form. Captain Nathan Cayless has had his best year ever in my book while both Himdmarsh forwards - Ian and Nathan – have been outstanding.

Parramatta will bring good speed and skill all over the ground.

Weaknesses:

Parramatta try and push the pass in attack to get the second phase all the time and this can make errors.

Melbourne love teams who make stacks of mistakes as their relentless play wears you down.

Melbourne.

Strengths:

This is a the modern day version of a complete football team. They’ve got power, speed, strength, first class defence, are superbly coached and possess a brilliant bench.

Every player is well schooled.

Weaknesses:

The Storm showed when beaten by the Roosters and later on against the Sharks that when they get behind on the scoreboard they struggle mentally.


However they are a very robotic team who are best as frontrunners.

Hooker Cameron Smith and Michael Crocker are the two most valuable players to this team. When they fire they also set the mental strengths boundaries.

If they have a bad game the Eels could return to Telstra Stadium to play in their first grand final since 2001. Ironically it was their current coach responsible for denying them that elusive fifth premiership.

Verdict:

The Storm by a few points but not much. Don’t discount the possibility of golden-point extra-time.
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