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Manly on course

11 Sep 11 00:56
Last night during the Manly v Cowboys game we saw two halves of football which were in stark contrast to each other.  The first half saw Manly, perhaps initially a little complacent, then nervous and uncertain as they found themselves put under significant pressure by a Cowboys team which was determined and desperate.

During this half I watched the young Manly halves with interest and groaned as my earlier concerns about thier inexperience and abilty to perform under pressure were starting to be realised.  Cherry-Evans was being charged down, putting rushed and misdirected kicks in.  The bigger surprise, however was that Foran was almost invisible.  The body language and intensity of the Manly team was uncharacteristically down.

Going into half time 8-0 down it was up to the great man Hasler to snap this team out of the doldrums, and that he did - which is why I put Hasler up there with Bellamy and Bennett as one of the best coaches in the league.  Manly came out in the 2nd half a team transformed.

The way Manly destroyed the Cowboys in the 2nd half was nothing short of awesome.  How often do you see a team put on 42 unanswered points in a 40 minute half of football - let alone a 40 minute half of FINALS football ?  The intensity came back and with it the confidence and comraderie the team was lacking.  But what was most significant was that the inexperienced Manly halves stepped up.  Foran put the game in Manlys hands with that brilliant offload to Stewart when the game was still in the balance and Cherry-Evans returned to his strong tactical kicking for the corners and confident ball-playing.  His kick that hit the upright was admittedly a fluke, but I think it helped him a lot to kick back into gear (pun intended).

The significance of this game is that the Manly halves have just had their "baptism of fire" in finals football and they (plus the rest of the team) will draw a lot of confidence from turning around this game and be a lot stronger for it.  If they can play the rest of the season like they did the 2nd half last night they will be unstoppable.

Manly are now the 1st team to confirm a week off and will be one of only 4 teams to contest for spots in the grand final - yet this morning they are still paying 4.30 to win the premiership.  I was originally planning to lay off half my previous Manly premiership wager at this point (see previous blog post), but the market has got it wrong.  On the bright side, this price suggests that Manly will go into their next match in 2 weeks as underdogs, so we are unlikely to see any more complacency or low intensity football from Manly.  I'll be very happy to see them keep flying under the radar.

Unless the market changes I'm letting my Manly wager ride.
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