Jamie Lyon: I can't wait to play... Souths
Manly captain Jamie Lyon is steadying himself for another gruelling tilt at premiership glory on the Northern Beaches in 2015.
The 32-year-old, who is heading into his 14th NRL season – and his ninth at Manly – still gets excited about the prospect of taking on the best teams in the competition and proving the Sea Eagles are still a contender for the Provan-Summons trophy.
On the eve of the NRL draw being released, the two-time premiership-winning captain had no qualms tipping the big matches as the ones he is looking forward to most in 2015.
"I love playing against all the big rivals," Lyon said.
"South Sydney will be really tough because they won the premiership last year, but also Melbourne and the Roosters. We've had some quality match-ups over the years and they're the big guns we look at as the markers."
There is no doubt the Sea Eagles will circle the Rabbitohs game on their calendar when it is announced. While South Sydney and Manly have had some epic clashes dating back to the infamous 1970 Grand Final, a more recent rivalry has emerged elevating their clashes to blockbuster status.
In the 2013 preliminary final the Sea Eagles broke South Sydney hearts, bouncing back from an early 14-point deficit to claim a famous win and move into the grand final. The Rabbitohs responded with venom a year later, belting Manly 40-24 during their charge to a drought-breaking title.
Add to the mix the highly publicised move of former favourite son Glenn Stewart from the northern beaches to Redfern and you have a recipe for sporting theatre.
"I don't quite know what it is about Souths, but even with a slightly different squad they're going to be as strong as ever," Lyon said.
"Especially now with Glenn Stewart in there – he's such a good player and I reckon he'll add a different dimension to their game.
"They're big and strong through the middle, so with 'Gift' on the edges feeding their quality halves and then Greg Inglis at the back, they're going to take some stopping. But we'll be up for the challenge, that's for sure."
While taking on the reigning Premiers is high on the list for Lyon, there are some rivalries that have grown throughout his tenure at Manly that will again draw his attention when the NRL draw is released.
"We've had some good tussles with the Storm over the years and I just feel that we've got a good, healthy rivalry there," he said.
"We both respect each other and each match seems to be close, so I enjoy playing against the Mexicans."
Lyon will be looking forward to rekindling rivalries with the Rabbitohs and Storm, but there is no question where he is most looking forward to facing them in 2015.
"Brookie – it's a no brainer," he said.
"You get some enjoyment winning away when the opposition fans are giving it to you, but nothing beats winning at Brookie in front of a packed house."