You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

Manly coach Des Hasler has ramped up the mind games before Friday night's opening finals clash with the Storm by declaring: "Maybe Melbourne are impossible to beat."

Hasler, who is renowned for liking his teams to "fly under the radar", said any side playing the Storm would have to play at their absolute best to have a chance of winning – and even that may not be good enough.

However, Craig Bellamy was not falling for the trick, saying in his own pre-game media conference later on Thursday that his opposing coach was trying to get under the skin of his players.

"Coming into this format now, the stakes are high and Melbourne are a side that will make you grind for a bit, that is for sure," Hasler said.

"I think the one accolade that any club side can make about Melbourne is that you have to play well to beat them. They make you play well, and that is both in attack and defence."

The Storm equalled the 1975 Eastern Suburbs Roosters for the most consecutive wins before Parramatta ended their 19-match unbeaten run in the penultimate round. They rebounded last Friday against Cronulla to claim the minor premiership.

In doing so, the 2020 premiers lost only three matches – twice against the Eels and a 12-10 defeat by Penrith in round three.

Manly led the Storm 14-8 early in the second half when they clashed last month in round 21 but could not hold on and lost 24-14.

"I guess you can only really put your best foot forward and that is what it is all about," Hasler said.

Finals Factor: Justin Olam

"Maybe Melbourne are impossible to beat, so we will have to wait and see. They are a good side, a very good side."

Bellamy retorted by saying Hasler was "trying to get our boys a little bit overconfident which they won't be, I can promise you that".

Asked if Manly could still claim to be a finals dark horse, Bellamy responded: "No, I think the light's on.

"I don't think they're in the dark. I think all the other teams that are still in the competition, they'd think that Manly are going to be one of the real sides to beat.

"Manly have probably been the form team of the last four or five weeks. It seems as though they've timed their run and they've had a great run with injuries.

"Over the last two or three weeks I think they've had all their players available and to be playing like they are... and to finish in the top four like Manly have done, they've done a great job after the start they had.

I don't think anyone that knows their footy is doubting Manly as a massive chance in this competition.

Craig Bellamy

"I don't think anyone that knows their footy is doubting Manly as a massive chance in this competition."

The Storm scored a record 815 points this season, averaging 33.96, but according to statistics compiled by rugbyleagueeyetest.com, the Sea Eagles have averaged 36.2 since round six.

That coincided with the return of superstar fullback Tom Trbojevic, who has scored 25 tries and produced 27 try assists in 15 NRL matches.

X-Factor: Jason Saab

Melbourne managed to limit Trbojevic's involvement last month but Hasler said the Sea Eagles would need to improve in other areas of the game to have any chance of winning on Friday night.

"It's not so much that they controlled Tommy but it is probably what we need to do to combat and to meet them," he said.

"You can't turn the ball over and they are a side that can really strangle you so you need to be disciplined, not just with the ball but we gave away penalties and we have to limit that."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

Premier Partner

Media Partners

Major Partners

VIEW ALL PARTNERS