Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters in the first NRL semi-final. Kick-off at BB Print Stadium in Mackay is 7.50pm.
For one of these sides a long rollercoaster of a season will be bookended by this match-up. Back in round one at the Sydney Cricket Ground the Roosters strolled to a 46-4 victory and looked set for another premiership tilt. But a season decimated by injuries means only half that victorious Chooks line-up will feature tonight. After squeaking past Gold Coast with a field goal last week, they will need to up their game if they are to match Manly in an eliminator.
“It’s the reason why you play footy,” Jared Waerea-Hargreaves said during the week. “You play footy to be in the finals and to be there at the end of the year. We started training last November and you’ve really got to make the most of your time. Enjoy your time but not lose focus of why we’re here: that’s to win footy games and make sure we’re at the big dance.”
After losing to the Roosters in round one, Manly didn’t pick up a win until round five when Daly Cherry-Evans rescued his side’s season with a last minute drop goal against the Warriors. It’s been smooth sailing ever since with Tom Trbojevic returning from injury and catapulting the Sea Eagles into the playoffs in red-hot form. However, that momentum was halted in brutal fashion last time out against a Melbourne Storm outfit who rag-dolled their opponents for 80 minutes in a one-sided final.
Des Hasler’s troops will need to bounce back quickly, and do so against recent history with Easts winning four of the past five contests between these sides. But it’s a rivalry that goes back much further than that, and it’s history Trent Robinson is keen to channel.
“I think it’s great that you have a rivalry that goes back to the 1970s with guys like Crusher (Noel Cleal), going back and forth and Bobby Fulton. There’s an incredible history there right through to the big games and the modern era,” Robinson said. “It’s amazing. When people see those two jerseys on the field a lot of supporters see that and feel that, and that’s awesome.”
Who will survive and make it through to face Souths next weekend?