Friday night’s top-of-the-table clash between South Sydney and Manly at the Sydney Cricket Ground shapes as the game of the 2014 regular season, while many are labelling it a Grand Final preview.
It certainly has the feel of finals football arriving one month early, with both star-studded line-ups in tremendous form and sitting in the top two positions on the ladder. The Sea Eagles can virtually wrap up the minor premiership with a win, but the Rabbtiohs will draw to within two points of the title favourites if they prevail.
The bitter rivals have produced some of the most gripping, brutal, spiteful and high-quality contests of the last two seasons – none more so than last year’s extraordinary preliminary final. Warm favourites Souths raced out to an early 14-0 lead, before Manly staged an incredible comeback to eventually run out 30-20 victors and book a Grand Final berth.
The triumph enhanced the Sea Eagles’ reputation as the premiership’s most resilient team and one of the greatest sides of the NRL era; for the Rabbitohs, it marked a second straight preliminary final failure and has cast serious doubt over the squad’s mental capacity in big games.
Relive the 2013 preliminary final thriller below – it’s worth watching just to see David ‘Wolfman’ Williams’ miracle try that propelled Manly to an unlikely victory:
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