Head to Head: Ballin v Smith
When it comes to Queensland players, it's safe to say that Cameron Smith is one the greatest of all time. However, Manly fans will argue that they boost the next best.
The two sides have key match ups all over the field but the one which is most intriguing, is the battle between the two Queensland ruck men, Matt Ballin and Cameron Smith.
Despite Manly’s heavy defeat last week, Ballin was one of the star performers. Taking a physical game to Parramatta, Ballin was the first to get stuck into former teammate Anthony Watmough with a cheeky face rub after the back rowers first carry. Along with that, Ballin sustained a nasty gash above his left eye, highlighting the fight and determination to keep the team in the game despite an unfavourable score line.
Smith on the other hand, made a shock appearance on Monday night. The superstar hooker was a surprise inclusion in Melbourne’s starting line up when it was thought he might miss round one through injury. Yet, the Melbourne and Queensland stalwart put in another seamless performance in the Storm’s 12-4 win over the Dragons on Monday night.
Cameron Smith made 23 appearances last year with the Storm making the Eight, but being removed in the first week of finals. In the 23 games, Smith made 963 tackles averaging at 41.9 a game where as Ballin made 993 tackles in as many games averaging at 43.2 a game.
With a heavy defeat to South Sydney and a heartbreaking one-point loss to the Bulldogs ending Manly’s finals series. The Sea Eagles cohort will be the first to admit they missed Ballin’s influence in finals period when he was unable to recover from injury.
This Saturday looks set to be another blockbuster in a rivalry that is chocked full with historic encounters and this weekend looks set to entertain. Ballin will hope to step up his game and play a more influential role in the absence of Kieran Foran. Where as his opposite number Smith, will look to play with more freedom with his niggling injury healing.
Last year, it was Smith who got the better of his counterpart, with the Storm defeating Manly in both their encounters. One of those defeats, a one-point loss at Brookvale oval after the man himself slotted the winning field goal, which still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of all Sea Eagles faithful.
So who will turn out on top? You will have to be watching Saturday night to find out.