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Manly are the team to beat

10 Aug 11 23:12
After the recent demise of St George Illawarra as competition favourites in the NRL I've been asking myself who the *real* contender is for this years premiership.  It's that time in the year as the regular season begins "the run home" when teams are gearing up for finals football and form-lines become all that more important.

For me there is a standout, and that is the Manly Sea Eagles.  This team is well coached, disciplined and is very well rounded with solid performers in all positions.  The intensity which they maintained last week against a struggling, yet determined and improvings Rooster outfit showed off thier professionalism and strong desire to be serious title contenders this year.  They also have a coach and senior players who have won the premiership before.  Compared to St George and Melbourne, who are having a tendency to "clock off" or drop intensity, this Manly team is currently excellent value at 5.50 to win the premiership.

Melbourne may be favourites, and they do have the super-stars in their team who are capable of the odd piece of individual brilliance, but in my opinion they are unbalanced.  They have average players in some positions and therefore "chinks in the armour" which can be exploited.  (See my other blog post for the reasons why St George won't win - and that was posted before they choked against the Tigers).  Meanwhile, the only weakness I see in Manly is some inexperience in the halves.  I have no doubt that Foran will step up because this kid is a brilliant, natural footballer, but while Cherry-Evans has been a great find this year for Manly and is an emerging talent, he shows some glimpses of being vulnerable under pressure situations and his position is critically important.

My strategy is therefore to back Manly now at the juicy price of 5.50 before the rest of the punters out there realise this team is building up for something big on the run home.  Once they dispose of whichever hapless team they come up against in the preliminary final, I should be able to lay off half my stake at sub 3.20.  Once they make the Grand Final I'll lay off the rest of my stake by which time I wouldn't be surprised for them to be favourites at sub 2.00.  Then I'll kick back on Grand Final day and enjoy the game, still with a big fat green on Manly to win but with no downside exposure - hoping that the young gun Manly halves can hold thier nerve and realise thier potential.
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