One of the great modern rivalries, there is usually drama when the Sea Eagles and Storm clash.
That was certainly the case in their first meeting last season when Manly won a golden point thriller 11-10 to announce their premiership claims.
Melbourne recorded a big win in the rematch, but Sea Eagles winger Jorge Taufua produced the main highlight by demolishing Cameron Munster with a trademark hit.
Reigning minor premiers the Storm are looking to continue their dominance despite losing some backline power, while Manly are expected to be among the top teams in 2020.
Sea Eagles: Manly will start the match 1-17 after Tofoafoa Sipley and Brendan Elliot were the last two players dropped from the squad. Jake Trbojevic and Addin Fonua-Blake will play despite off-season shoulder surgeries. Tom Trbojevic will return from the pec injury which cut short his 2019 season. Tevita Funa and Zac Saddler dropping off the extended bench on Saturday.
Storm: Nelson Asofa-Solomona will play for the Storm after overcoming hamstring complaints. He will start from the bench, with Harry Grant joining Brenko Lee as the two players to be left out 60 minutes before kick-off. Tui Kamikamica will start in the front row. Ryley Jacks and Darryn Shconig were cut from the reserves list 24 hours before kick-off.
Tom Trbojevic v Ryan Papenhuyzen. The fullbacks hold the key to their team’s attack at Lottoland. Trbojevic is on the comeback trail from injury while Papenhuyzen is coming off a breakout year at the back for the Storm and will be targeted a lot more by opposition sides in 2020.
For the Sea Eagles to win
Manly's selective offloading ability was a point of difference in their attack last year. Second-phase play could be what's needed to open up the notoriously tight Storm defence.
For the Storm to win
As always, the two Camerons – Smith and Munster – are integral to Melbourne's hopes. Their impact – or lack of – might be what decides the result.
Brett Kimmorley says
Manly are no longer flying under the radar after a wonderful 2019. The home ground advantage is big and I think they'll cause an upset thanks to a Des Hasler coaching masterclass. It's interesting how the Storm keep having to develop players and they lost a few again this year. They couldn't settle on a halfback last season, so I look forward to seeing who plays where for Melbourne and what style they employ in the opening weeks. Sea Eagles by 2.
Daly Cherry-Evans was the NRL's top 40/20 kicker in 2019, finishing with five. The Storm were the leading team for kick return metres (5,876) and supports (3,631).
And another thing ...
There have been a series of closely-fought battles between these teams but Manly's 40-0 win over Melbourne back in 2008 broke the record for the biggest winning margin in a grand final. The rivalry between the teams is so big there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to it (and a separate one for the "Battle of Brookvale").