If you weren't already convinced the Sea Eagles are here to stay, their Saturday night's win over the Storm in Melbourne proved beyond doubt they are a genuine premiership contender.
Des Hasler should be a shoo-in for Coach of the Year, with Craig Bellamy and Ricky Stuart his only real threats.
Manly are playing like a team that believes it can go deep into September.
The Knights have had one of the strangest cold-hot-cold seasons by any team in recent years and their top-eight hopes are hanging by a thread after last week's home loss to Wests Tigers.
Match: Sea Eagles v Knights
Round 20 -
Venue: Lottoland, Sydney
Sea Eagles: Apisai Koroisau has been elevated to the starting line-up from the reserves, with Manase Fainu dropping to the bench and Lachlan Croker cut from the 17-man team. Manly have won eight of their past 10 games against the Knights. Brendan Elliott and Lloyd Perrett were the two players left out 24 hours out from kick-off, while Jack Gosiewski was the last player cut before kick-off.
Knights: Nathan Brown swung the axe on Tuesday as the Knights look to snap a four-game losing streak. Lachlan Fitzgibbon (elbow) joined the team for training this week after surgery three weeks ago and is on track to play. The Knights beat the Sea Eagles last season at Lottoland for the first time since 2006. Beau Fermor and Jirah Momoisea were omitted on the eve of the match. The team will line up 1-17 as named on Tuesday, with Jamie Buhrer and Chris Randall the last players cut before kick-off.
Fullback for Sea Eagles is number 1 Tom TrbojevicFullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn Ponga
Winger for Sea Eagles is number 2 Jorge TaufuaWinger for Knights is number 2 Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Centre for Sea Eagles is number 3 Brad ParkerCentre for Knights is number 3 Hymel Hunt
Centre for Sea Eagles is number 4 Moses SuliCentre for Knights is number 4 Tautau Moga
Winger for Sea Eagles is number 5 Reuben GarrickWinger for Knights is number 5 Kurt Mann
Five-Eighth for Sea Eagles is number 6 Dylan WalkerFive-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Mason Lino
Halfback for Sea Eagles is number 7 Daly Cherry-EvansHalfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell Pearce
Prop for Sea Eagles is number 8 Addin Fonua-BlakeProp for Knights is number 8 David Klemmer
Hooker for Sea Eagles is number 19 Apisai KoroisauHooker for Knights is number 9 Connor Watson
Prop for Sea Eagles is number 10 Martin TaupauProp for Knights is number 10 Daniel Saifiti
2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 11 Joel Thompson2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 12 Curtis Sironen2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Mitchell Barnett
Lock for Sea Eagles is number 13 Jake TrbojevicLock for Knights is number 13 Tim Glasby
Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 9 Manase FainuInterchange for Knights is number 14 Jacob Saifiti
Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 15 Corey WaddellInterchange for Knights is number 15 James Gavet
Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 16 Morgan BoyleInterchange for Knights is number 16 Sione Mata'utia
Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 17 Taniela PasekaInterchange for Knights is number 17 Aidan Guerra
- Referee: Henry Perenara
- Referee: Phil Henderson
- Touch Judge: Nick Morel
- Touch Judge: Liam Nicholls
- Video Referee: Ben Galea
- Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy
The incumbent State of Origin halfbacks face off in Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans and Newcastle's Mitchell Pearce. As expected, both men lead their sides for try assists and will have a major influence on the outcome. As a secondary tussle, two of the game's most exciting players in Kalyn Ponga and Tom Trbojevic lock horns.
For the Sea Eagles to win
Complacency might creep in after such a satisfying win over Melbourne but Hasler is a master at finding the right words to keep his team performing at a high level. They need to use last week's outstanding defensive effort as a foundation for the rest of 2019, while DCE will be looking to get the ball in Tom Trbojevic's hands as often as possible.
For the Knights to win
Was it the Origin period and the brief absence of Kalyn Ponga that has put the Knights in a tailspin? Nathan Brown is running out of time to get his team playing like the giant-killing side that tore through the middle of the season and surged into the top four. They need to tighten up the defence, while Pearce and Ponga need to get back to their best.
Brett Kimmorley says
The Knights desperately need to win here after what they’ve done in the last month. They need that energy and upbeat football to come back. They key for them is going to be Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce. In Manase Fainu, Manly have a young hooker who is playing an unbelievable brand of football. Sea Eagles by 10
Mitchell Pearce is taking the line on with confidence and is prepared to wear a hit for the good of the team. The Knights playmaker has engaged the line 130 times this season, second only to Luke Brooks (147). Pearce has 14 line break assists for the season, equal best in the NRL with Rabbitoh Damien Cook.
And another thing ...
The Sea Eagles have the opportunity to avenge last year's clean sweep at the hands of Newcastle. Manly beat the Knights 26-18 in round five this year at McDonald Jones Stadium, which helped make up for two losses in 2018, the Knights prevailing 19-18 at home and 18-12 when they met at Lottoland.