They may be the NRL’s most successful club for the best part of 20 years, but Melbourne do not traditionally draw big crowds at Sydney venues. However, the combination of a tantalising top -our clash and the long-standing rivalry between the two clubs makes this match an exception for Manly fans.
The players that fuelled the bitter rivalry may have all moved on – except for Daly Cherry-Evans – in the years since the infamous “Battle of Brookvale”, but Curtis Sironen can tell clashes with Melbourne mean more to coach Des Hasler.
There is more video to watch, more preparation during the week and more Hasler jitters than in a normal week.
“He doesn’t really say it, but you can sort of tell with how much video he sends out,” returning forward Curtis Sironen said. “He sends out double the amount of clips that we have to watch and he is always that little bit more jumpier during the week. Well, he was down in Melbourne.
“You can feel it around the place a bit, but it won’t be until game day when we get there and you sort of think, ‘Oh, wow, here we are’.
“You know that they’re the best team so you want to turn up and you’re always up for it. You prepare that little bit harder. It’s hard to be complacent in games like that. You just have to prepare as well as you can.”
The Storm and Roosters are the competition’s benchmark teams this season and that is adding to Manly’s drive to knock Melbourne off for the second time this year.
While there is belief within the club, Sironen stopped short of declaring the Sea Eagles as a genuine premiership threat.
“We know we’re as good as anyone,” Sironen said. “We’ve played the Storm, played the Chooks, Canberra. The Chooks touched us up earlier in the year, but I think we’re a different side now.
“I’m not going to go out and say that we can do that [win comp], but we know that we’re competitive in any game now if we’re on so we’ve just got to make sure of that.”
Sironen has only played in one final during his eight-year career – a qualifying final loss to Penrith in 2017 – but he hasn’t turned his mind to September just yet.
“We were sort of, not making up numbers, but I think just even making the eight was a good effort [in 2017],” Sironen said. “Now we’ve got a new confidence in ourselves.
“This year is going to be a different story, but we’ve just got to worry about getting there.
“We’ve got two big games [left], if we drop the two big games we could finish sixth or seventh and then you could be [out] in the first week of finals.”
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.