Manly primed for sold-out Suncorp
Ahead of Saturday's monumental Suncorp double header, Manly players say they aren't disappointed to be taking a home game away from Brookvale Oval – rather they're pumped to get the chance to play in front of a sellout crowd at a big stadium.
While some fans may be questioning the logic of talking a home game away from their preferred home patch into the backyard of their opponents – the ladder-leading Broncos who hardly need an extra leg-up – the extra gate sales will be a boost for the club and the team will get a chance to connect with its significant Brisbane fan base when it flies up north a couple of days early.
Speaking about the huge Saturday night clash – which follows directly on from a Storm v Cowboys clash at the same venue – Manly back-rower Tom Symonds said he was excited by the prospect.
"I would like to embrace it. You'd rather be playing in front of a full crowd at Suncorp than just another regular game that could be anywhere so from my personal point of view I'm definitely looking forward to it," Symonds said.
"It's one of those games you don't get to experience too much throughout the year when there's a 50,000 crowd and expectations and a big atmosphere, so I like it."
Symonds said the Sea Eagles players understood the reasons the club had elected to shift a home game (in a move set to be a regular feature of the draw over the next couple of years) and the players weren't fussed.
"From a players' point of view you [usually] have to go to Suncorp throughout the year anyway so we don't worry about it all that much," he said.
"Once it's there in the calendar we just deal with it like we would going up to Suncorp any other time. I don't mind so much – you get to play a big crowd and a big atmosphere."
Lock Jake Trbojevic said the players hadn't spent much time pondering the move but would look to take the parochial home crowd out of the contest early.
"We just have to go up there and start well, take the Brisbane fans out of it by starting well then hopefully we get a few fans up there watching us who can get behind us," Trbojevic said.
No doubt the joint ladder leaders – one of four teams to have won seven from nine games this year along with Cronulla, North Queensland and Melbourne – will provide a stern test, but in Manly's favour they do have a fair record at the ground.
While the Sea Eagles have lost their past two matches at Suncorp they had won six of seven leading up to that between 2007 and 2013.
A further boost could come in the shape of their playing roster, with the likes of Api Koroisau and Brett Stewart a chance of returning from injury and five-eighth Dylan Walker boosted by a fortnight off to rest a series of niggles that ended his night early against the Cowboys in Round 9.
"All the boys who weren't in the representative sides got a few days off to rest, mentally as much as anything so those guys will be nice and refreshed," Symonds said.
"The guys who did have the week in camp hopefully come back with a bit of a spring in their step and will have taken something out of those games," he added.