Sydney Roosters skipper Anthony Minichiello believes this week’s wet and wild weather in the NSW capital could turn Friday night’s NRL grand final rematch with Manly into another low-scoring arm wrestle.
The Roosters prevailed on the four occasions the sides met in 2013, including the grand final – each one being an absorbing affair between two outstanding teams.
But it was the semi-final clash in September that was arguably the most memorable of the quartet, with the Roosters hanging on for dear life thanks to one of the great defensive performances of modern times in a match that was a throwback to yesteryear.
In the week leading up to that game, Sydney was hit by torrential rain that made the pitch at Allianz Stadium heavy underfoot.
Conditions have been similar over the last four days and, with the stadium being heavily used at this time of the year by Super Rugby side NSW Waratahs and Sydney FC in the A-League, Minichiello is expecting another war of attrition.
“We’ve had some great games against them and it’s always a tough, physical battle,” Minichiello said.
“It’s going to be wet and that brings the physicality out in the game and that is a separate challenge in itself.
“We had some close tussles against them last season, some real low scoring games. If our defence is on, then we believe we can hold them out again.”
Manly have named Kieran Foran in their side, despite the New Zealand five-eighth admitting he was unlikely to be fit to take his place in the team earlier this week.
The Sea Eagles’ attack struggled without his steadying hand and defensive prowess against Parramatta last week as they needed a last-minute try from Steve Matai to edge out last year’s wooden spooners.
“Everyone has their own opinions on who is their best player and their most controlled player and, in my opinion, Kieran is,” said Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce.
“They lose a lot when he doesn’t play.”
However, Minichiello said the Roosters had been preparing for the a Manly side containing Foran.
“He’s under a cloud but we are thinking he’ll play,” he said.
“Even if he doesn’t, they have plenty of depth and Jamie Lyon will slot in there and he’s a class player.”