Manly braced for fired up Eels
It's one of the NRL's oldest and fiercest rivalries, and Manly players say they'll be ready for a fired up Parramatta outfit on Sunday afternoon at Brookvale Oval.
The Eels were humbled, even humiliated, to the tune of 56-4 last week by the Roosters, while Manly ground out as tough and as gritty a win as you're likely to see any time soon to pip South Sydney 14-12 in a bruising encounter.
But form lines count for little once you get out on the park and the northern beaches boys are well aware of the extra bite that comes with every meeting against their western Sydney rivals.
Eels coach Brad Arthur was Manly's assistant coach last year and will have to bring his defensive coaching experience to bear this week to repair the Eels sieve-like tackling line.
Centre Will Hopoate was wearing Manly colours last time he ran out at Brookvale in 2011 and will likely get a mixed reaction from the crowd – much like fellow former crowd favourite George Rose did in Round 1.
Returning Manly prop Jason King played very strongly and gave up no ground in his running battle with South Sydney's Burgess brothers, and ominously for the Eels King says he will take plenty of confidence out of that run having blown the cobwebs out.
"I know Brad Arthur will have them concentrating a lot on their defence," King told reporters this week.
"I haven't seen the match [against the Roosters], I just saw the result but we'll have a look at their tape. I don't think much will change other than they'll have a high emphasis on defence but we will as well.
"I'm looking forward to a tough game, it's going to be at Brookvale, I haven't played there for a while myself [in Round 7, 2013, against South Sydney]."
Fellow Manly prop Brenton Lawrence is only in his second year in maroon and white but said he feels the rivalry.
"We don't dwell on things like that but we know they're there. There's a bit of a rivalry with every club, everyone seems to want to beat Manly so it's good to be a part of that. We always want to beat Parramatta and this week's no exception," he said.
Asked his thoughts on the perception that everyone hates Manly, Lawrence laughed: "There's something weird about it, yeah!"
"It is uplifting, it's something that you want to disprove I guess, everyone seems to have that gripe against Manly. I think one of the best signs in the crowd is 'Guess what – Manly hates you too!' I'm not speaking for the crowd or the players but it's a good rivalry to have, it's a bit of fun."
Lawrence said he hopes the crowd gives the returning Hopoate a good reception.
"They're quite loyal the Brooky fans, we saw George Rose had a good reception when he came back [in Round 1] so hopefully they respond well to him and hopefully he has a good game - but not too good!"
He added the players wouldn't be drawing on the return of Brad Arthur for extra motivation.
"I can probably guess how they might be defending because we had a bit of tutelage under Brad Arthur last year, that might have a slight effect in that sense but not to the effect that we want to beat them because Brad Arthur's their coach or anything like that, it's a Parramatta side, their players we need to come up against."
Manly centre Steve Matai said he was expecting the Eels to come out hard.
"They've got a hard-nosed coach in Brad Arthur and they're going to come out firing. We're going to have to be there again defensively and I'm sure we're going to do that.
The left-side centre added he'll have to be on his game when it comes to marking Parramatta right-side centre Hopoate.
"I haven't seen the two weeks that he's played, I know he is a strong runner of the ball and good defender and I'm going to have to be on my game to get on top of him," Matai said.
"He's had two years out of the game, it's going to take a little while [to get back to his best] but it's just like riding a bike, I reckon he'll be back in a few weeks."