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Sunday, 5 October 2008
Manly face off against Melbourne in the 2008 decider in what shapes as a battle of attrition given the rain Sydney has had in the past 24 hours and continues to have today. Despite not having two Australian internationals in Cameron Smith and Ryan Hoffman available, the Storm have the wood over Manly and their 'dominate the play the ball' ethos will be aided by the heavy conditions. The Sea Eagles like to bank on their physicallity on both sides of the ball to bash sides out of the contest but the reason this doesn't work against Melbourne is the Storm are superb at fatiguing Manly in the play the ball and Manly can't keep their intensity up for the full 80mins as a result. Cooper Cronk has the best kicking game on the field tonight and if it stays wet - that's a match winning advantage for the Storm. Billy Slater didn't win the Dally M so you can bet your bottom dollar that if he plays even remotely well or scores at least one try - the powers that be will hand him the Clive Churchill Medal - even if Cronk is the standout on the pitch. Manly can win but Orford has to run the ball as much as he can early. If the Storm defence knows all he'll do is pass to his wide runners then they'll just pick off the likes of Watmough, the Stewarts, Bell and Menzies like they were ducks in a shooting gallery. Melbourne to win - and although my initial prediction of 26-16 Storm was reliant on good weather - it wouldn't shock me to see the Storm still score 4 or 5 tries in the wet. Manly on the other hand might struggle to get across the line twice. I'll stick with 26-16 but will list 19-6 as a rain/heavy track option. First Try Scorer - Anthony Quinn (MEL) in the 7th minute. Last Try Scorer - Michael Crocker (MEL) in the 64th minute. Man of the Match: Billy Slater (MEL) but Cooper Cronk will probably be the best on ground. Enjoy the 2008 Decider and I'll also tip the Canberra Raiders to beat the Brisbane Broncos in the Under 20s Grand Final.