Geoff Toovey's battle with former Manly coach Des Hasler and the Bulldogs will be a key clash again for the Sea Eagles in 2014. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Sea Eagles v Roosters
One loss to the Roosters in a season? Yeah, Manly fans might be able to live with that. Two losses? That's a bitter pill to swallow. Three losses? Hmm... feeling some anger building here. But four losses... you're kidding, right? Losing four times to the one opponent would be easily explained if the team on the receiving end had a horror season – but we're talking about a spectacular unit that went within a whisker of taking out the 2013 premiership!
We guarantee the grand final rematch will be the most anticipated clash of Season 2014 for Manly fans, who will want to be among the jubilant throng when they wipe the smile from the faces of Tricolours fans. It's been a long, long wait – but it sure will be worth it.
Sea Eagles v Eels
Nothing ignites a fan's passion as much as a former club star turning out for an opposition for the first time. And when that opposition is a traditional, hated foe, it makes it all the more interesting.
Will Hopoate attained Origin honours while wearing the maroon and white in 2011. He was the hottest prospect in rugby league. Then he quit for two years to pursue a Mormon mission – but not before inking a deal to switch to Parramatta when he returned to the game in 2014.
Here's the chance for Manly fans to deliver a unique 'welcome back' to young Hoppa. And ensuring that they all head home with hoarse throats, this game also marks the first clash between former Manly assistant coach Brad Arthur and the Sea Eagles. Give it to them, Eagles fans.
Sea Eagles v Bulldogs
Manly fans are prickly customers when it comes to loyalty. And they have long memories. That is why this clash, with former premiership-winning mentor Des Hasler and ex-teammate Tony Williams, remains a standout on the calendar.
Make no mistake, the Brookvale faithful are thrilled to bits with the coaching performance and style of Geoff Toovey over the past two years. They wouldn't swap Tooves for the world. But they'll take every opportunity to swoop on 'traitors' Hasler and Williams.
They'll also be out in force to help the team erase memories of their Round 14 heartbreak at home last season, when they were pipped 32-30 in golden point. That night they steamed home from a 12-point deficit at halftime, scoring three unanswered tries in the final 15 minutes – including two in last four minutes. They enjoyed a better result in their first match-up in 2013, when they smashed the 2012 grand finalists 20-6 in front of almost 19,000 fans at ANZ Stadium.
Do they get up for a clash with the Doggies? Consider this: in his last year at Brookvale in 2012, Tony Williams averaged more than 13 runs a game for almost 120 metres a match. In two meetings with the maroon and white in 2013 he was restricted to a combined 16 runs and 130 metres.
Check back on NRL.com on Wednesday for details of your team's schedule with the release of the 2014 NRL Draw.