Schick Hydro Preview: Manly Sea Eagles v Warriors
Saturday, 3.30pm AWST (5.30pm AEST)
After a week off with the bye both the Sea Eagles and Warriors will embark on one of the longest trips in rugby league this week, meeting at nib Stadium in Perth.
The Round 19 Manly home game sees the seventh-placed Warriors look to further establish themselves in the top eight, while for the 13th-placed Sea Eagles must-win territory is approaching if they want to play post-season footy in 2016.
Manly coach Trent Barrett has called Matt Wright and Lewis Brown in to line up in the centres in the place of Dylan Walker (hand) and Brayden Wiliame (suspension), while Bradley Parker will debut on the wing.
Both Blake Leary and Siosaia Vave are named on a five-man bench.
This week the Warriors welcome back captain Ryan Hoffman and veteran wing Manu Vatuvei – who between them boast 495 NRL Telstra Premiership games – replacing Albert Vete (hamstring) and Nathaniel Roache, who drops back to the club's reserve-grade side.
Tuimoala Lolohea shifts from the wing to the bench while James Gavet is named at 18th man.
Watch out Sea Eagles: Between Rounds 4-19 this year Manly have beaten a top-eight side only once (tasting victory against the Dragons in Round 17). Other than that the Sea Eagles have only been able to get over the top of teams who at the time sat outside of the top eight, beating the Warriors in Round 6 and Knights in Round 8.
The Warriors showed no signs of being sluggish out of the bye earlier this year, producing arguably their best performance of the year in a comprehensive 36-18 victory over the Broncos in Round 13. The week off can often do more harm than good to a team's momentum, but for the Warriors it may prove to be a huge positive ahead of a taxing away trip.
Watch out Warriors: Manly have enough points in them to win games in the NRL, it's only stopping them at the other end which is tripping them up. Across the season the Sea Eagles have averaged 19 points scored per game, while over the past month they have scored at least 24 in all but one game.
Be aware as well of the Warriors' second-half fade. In three or their last four trips to Perth the Warriors have led at half-time but gone on to lose on each occasion. Whether it's due to the effects of a long road trip, or something unrelated, the Kiwi side have a history of falling away in games played in Western Australia.
Key match-up: Tom Trbojevic v David Fusitu'a. Two excitement machines at the back of the field who chew up yardage for fun. In a season where he has played mostly as a winger or centre so far, Trbojevic is averaging 160.9 metres with nine line breaks and five tries. Fusitu'a has also had only limited time as a fullback this year, but has scored seven tries in just 10 games, while averaging 138.7 metres with 10 line breaks. These two players are sure to get the fans on their feet in Perth.
The history: Played 28; Sea Eagles 20, Warriors 8. The Sea Eagles' recent head-to-head history against the Warriors is excellent, with 10 wins from their last 11 clashes. If you go back even further Manly have lost only four from their last 21 against the Kiwi side, dating back to 2004. The reading gets even worse for the Warriors ahead of Saturday night, having not won a single game in Perth in seven attempts.
What are the odds: The Sea Eagles opened as outsiders with Sportsbet but they could well be favourites by the time the game kicks off due to five times the investment on Manly in the head-to-head market. The home side 1-12 is the way punters are going in the correct margin market. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.
Match Officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assistant Referee: Chris James. Touch Judges: Chris Butler and Jason Walsh. Review Officials: Ben Galea and Jason Robinson. Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 5.00pm (AEST).
How we see it: The Sea Eagles have lost seven of their last eight, while the Warriors are riding a wave of good form with only three defeats in that same period. Momentum is firmly on the side of the Kiwi outfit, but while some venue hoodoos can be dispelled as pure coincidence, there is genuine reason behind this one and the Warriors haven't been able to get past it so far. Manly to finish stronger and win by two.