We come into the halfway point of the season with these two sides in desperate need of some positive football to command a positive focus in a year when both have suffered a bunch of negatives.
The fact is that if either is to have any real impact on 2009, they must get a roll going – and get it happening sooner rather than later.
The Sea Eagles have certainly lifted their performances since the beginning of the year, and are probably a little unlucky not to be entering this match on a three-match winning streak rather than off a loss, as it took a controversial last-minute penalty against the Titans to sink them before the bye.
They have moved into 11th spot on the NRL ladder and must continue the Roosters’ misery if they are to have a chance at defending the premiership they won so impressively last year.
The Roosters are in horrendous form, having lost the past three in a row before the bye and having won just one match in the past seven rounds.
They are in 15th spot on the ladder but they can take solace in the fact they are just two competition points behind Manly; a win here could have them start a climb they are desperate for.
Coach Brad Fittler has been feeling the heat big-time and the club has reacted by bringing in former club legend Arthur Beetson to assist.
If the Roosters’ players can’t lift for these two legends of the game, then it’s quite possible they can’t be resurrected into good form at all.
Manly have picked the same side that succumbed to the Titans, with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves added as an 18th man.
Jamie Lyon and Brent Kite have to get though Origin I before taking their places.
The Roosters have quite a few positional changes from the side thrashed by Penrith before the bye.
Braith Anasta’s brief and ill-fated time at fullback has come to an abrupt halt, with the skipper returning to five-eighth. This moves Ben Jones back to centre and Shaun Kenny-Dowell to the wing, while winger Sam Perrett is switched to fullback.
Sonny Tuigamala is also out of the side, with Sisa Waqa coming onto the other flank.
Former captain Craig Fitzgibbon is also due back at lock, which sees Lopini Paea move from lock to prop with Queensland star Nate Myles slated to start from the bench if he gets through Queensland duty without problems.
Jake Friend also returns to the side at hooker, which moves Jordan Tansey to the bench.
Watch out Sea Eagles: Beware a team at the bottom of the barrel – as the only way is up.
The Sharks finally had a win last weekend, which basically leaves the Roosters as the side with the least momentum in the NRL. And, with the introduction of Beetson, maybe – just maybe – the Roosters can lift significantly.
It will take huge performances from some of the bigger names like Anasta and Pearce, but maybe even more so from a guy like Willie Mason. Having been discarded as a representative player and fined for relieving himself in public recently there is no better time for Mason to show some of the form that once had him king of rugby league’s most damaging players.
Mason is averaging 91 metres a game this season but he has been far from the handful he used to be. With just two line breaks and one try to his name, he has been easily contained. He must find his mongrel from within and take it out on anyone wearing a maroon-and-white jersey.
Watch out Roosters: The Sea Eagles are gaining good yards across the ground, which has helped them turn their slow start to the year around, while the Roosters are really struggling to get anywhere.
The Manly boys are now gaining 1316 metres a game to be ranked fourth in the NRL while the Roosters are languishing in last with just 1159 metres per game. By getting constantly beaten across the ground it is making it very difficult for the likes of Mitchell Pearce and Braith Anasta to conjure up anything.
The Sea Eagles are being led strongly by Anthony Watmough (120 metres a game), David Williams (109 metres), Brent Kite (104 metres), Michael Robertson (103 metres) and Steve Matai (100 metres).
Also look for a huge game from Glenn Stewart who was forced to miss Origin I through suspension.
Where it will be won: Commitment – plain and simple. The Sea Eagles will win this match if they are committed, while the Roosters’ only chance is to be committed to every aspect of the game plan for an entire 80 minutes.
The Manly side is better than the Roosters – that much is clear – but if they don’t come into the contest at 100 per cent they could easily be burned.
Complacency is a killer in the NRL… this isn’t the UK Super League, where you can play at 85 per cent and sometimes still win. This is the world’s toughest club league competition and even the team running last can beat first with just the slightest drop in intensity from the top clubs.
Des Hasler has already warned his side about it, but they must make sure they heed his word.
Plus, they owe it to their fans, who have already seen three losses at Brookvale this year.
For the Roosters, a near-perfect match will be needed. No shortcuts, no easy way out, no expecting someone else to get the job done. Each and every player has to play above and beyond expectation. If they don’t they can just about officially wave the season goodbye.
The History: Played 113; Sea Eagles 73, Roosters 38, drawn 2. Manly have won six of the past seven matches although the most recent match went to the Roosters 34-12 last season. However at Brookvale Oval the ledger is firmly in the Sea Eagles’ favour with a 31-11 advantage. The last time the Roosters won on the northern beaches was 2004 and in the past two matches at the venue the combined score has been 98-0 to the Sea Eagles!
Conclusion: If you have enough confidence to tip the Roosters… well, you are a brave soul. They will need to show vast improvement to beat Manly – but anything is possible.
The Sharks finally won last week, so the Roosters might be this weekend’s upset. But please, don’t count on it.
Match officials: Referees – Steve Lyons & Ashley Klein; Sideline Officials – David Abood & Peter Kirby; Video Ref – Steve Clark.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 5.30pm.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.