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War of attrition as two underdogs battle for history

War of attrition as two underdogs battle for history

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When 2020 was coming to an end, my prediction at the very beginning of 2021 was definitely a Penrith-Melbourne grand final. The Roosters and the Eels were also in the mix to as my potential grand finalist.

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Manly and South Sydney were not on my radar and or many of the game’s experts.

However, as the cliche goes, a week is a long time in football. We are now 38 weeks into 2021 (I know, it’s flown hasn’t it?), and the curtain is well and truly closing in on yet another rugby league season.

This season has been quite the story.

Kieran Foran and Daly-Cherry Evans: 80 minutes away from linking up in another grand final. 12 months ago, Foran was playing for virtual wooden spooners, the Canterbury Bulldogs. He was a shell of his 2011 self, despite major improvements in his form compared to his previous two seasons at Belmore. Foran has been aided by a competent Manly roster, allowing him to play his game, without having to force his hand to create opportunities.

2011.

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10 years since Foran and Cherry-Evans last won a grand final together.

2011 feels like an eternity ago. The average phone touch screen was little more than the length of your ring finger. The top-grossing movie of 2011 was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

Darren Lockyer was the captain of the Brisbane Broncos.

If that is not enough, Nathan Cleary was just 14 years old.

After all this time, I truly wonder if the fairytale spirit is still in the air this year. Over the last 15 years, either the heavy favorite has won it all (Melbourne: 2012, 2017, 2020 and Sydney Roosters: 2013, 2018, 2019), or a team has stepped up against all odds (Brisbane 2006, St George-Illawarra Dragons 2010, Rabbitohs 2014, North Queensland 2015, Cronulla 2016).

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The Rabbitohs are aiming to send departing coach Wayne Bennett out on a high.

Despite the absence of superstar Latrell Mitchell, the Rabbitohs have found a way to steal victory from the jaws of defeat. In many parts of their match against Penrith, South Sydney looked simply like they were holding on to the end of a runaway train. They understood that any field position given away to Penrith in the last 15 minutes could very well be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

However, they held on for dear life.

Manly on the other hand, are the tale of 2021.

The very definition of Peter V’landys era rugby league. Manly’s goalkicker, Reuben Garrick, has broken the points scoring record of Hazem El Masri in a single season. El Masri is widely touted as the most accurate goal kicker in the history of rugby league. However, given the flurry of points which have rained under the 6 again rules, Garrick and his teammates Jason Saab and Tom Trbojevic have managed to rack up Semi Radradra-level try-scoring stats.

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It doesn’t matter who you’re supporting tonight it’s crazy to think that one of these teams will be – at the very least – a runner-up in the 2021 grand final. May the best team win.



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