And so to Suncorp Stadium in the beating heart of Olympic City Brisvegas for Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and Wests Tigers in round 19 of our dear, still-kicking National Rugby League.
And it should be quite good.
Firm surface, light westerly breeze, chilly-for-Brissie but not too chilly, a maximum of 21 in the day dropping to 15-ish by 5:30pm for kick-off, the players will have daubed on Dencorub warmer than that.
Here’s hoping there’s plenty on Tommy Trbojevic’s precious ham-bones, just talking of them feels like a jinx, may they remain in top fettle for season 2021 amen.
“Still kicking”, the season? It is. Though whether it will be if another horny pelican breaches Queensland biosecurity is anyone’s guess, particularly now that New Zealand has sealed borders.
Where else could they setup a bubble? Alice Springs? Christmas Island?
But then Peter “The Great” V’landys appears to have state governments’ ears about the community wellbeing (cough, tax revenue) benefits of horse racing and greatest game of all rugby league, so here’s hoping there’ll still be an NRL competition as we progress through these vexed times of the virus.
But enough of that. For cometh Wests Tigers, something of a bogey side for Manly in recent times.
In a revealing interview with Manly club media, Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler was asked why the Tigers had beaten Manly in five of the previous 7 encounters.
“I don’t know,” Hasler said, adding that it may have something to do with the time of the year and Wests’ “unpredictability” and other things such as who was in Manly’s team.
Hasler then did his best to pump the fixture and to keep his men’s mind on the immediate.
“They’re coming off a win. They’re always a tough side to play. Young [Adam] Doueihi’s playing good footy and they have big wingers in Ken Maumalo and David Nofoaluma,” Hasler said.
Yet let’s remain resident in what Ray Warren would call (do his voice) “the fair dinkum department”: the players, like the fans, because they have minds, will, even just sub-consciously, know this: this match is sixth-with-a-bullet-and-champions-back versus a club that made a “documentary” to attract fans because for nine years they haven’t made the eight.
The last time these teams met the Tigers scored a try in the 11th minute and didn’t again while Manly ran in seven straight.
Yes, as Hasler said, the Tigers won last weekend. And yes, it would’ve been a confidence-building exercise to beat Brisbane Broncos 42-24.
But still residing in Rabbi’s Department of The Fair Dinkum, Brisbane Broncos fire less shots than a famous eunuch I just Googled, Thomas “Boston” Corbett, a born-again Christian who castrated himself to avoid temptation before firing one rather important shot when he killed John Wilkes Booth the actor who killed Abraham Lincoln.
So there is all that.
And thus you fancy Manly, and by some margin.
Tom Trbojevic, of course, is the big fillip. He owned Queensland. You’d suggest he’ll own a Tigers head, too, by Saturday night.
Tom’s brother Jake Trbojevic is back, too. What a footy player.
Another handy “In” is Origin man Daly Cherry Evans who takes back the No.7 and the bracketed capital C.
Josh Aloiai, who hasn’t played for three months because of a wrist injury, also returns to occupy the middle channels and bench for different parts of Saturday’s fixture. He played every match round 1-8 and 90 games for Wests Tigers.
Reuben Garrick shifts the wing and Moses Suli into the No.18.
Exciting colt Josh Schuster, “halfback” last start, will play in what was once called the second-row but is, for Schuster at least, like being a five-eighth with No.12 on your back.
Numbers mean nothing, as that 111-year-old fellah who died the other day would’ve told you.
Kieran Foran will continue in the No.6 and the understated, complementary, co-pilot role with Cherry-Evans. Hasler clearly has faith in The Foz in the six.
Up front there’ll be typical hard-charges, heavy D and the odd sneaky off-load from Martin Taupau, Taniela Paseka, Toafofoa Sipley, Sean Keppie (keep your head, son) and the dynamic Haumole “Shmole” Olakau’atu.
Elsewhere Jack Gosiewski is “in” though only onto the fresh reserves bench while Kurt de Luis, Cade Cust and Karl Lawton slide off the pine and into civvies and a face mask, be a pity they can’t watch with a beer.
The Tigers, meanwhile, lose Alex Twal to concussion and continue to be without centres James Roberts (because of injury) and BJ Leilua (because BJ Leilua).
They do still have a reasonable-looking backline, a couple of chunky forwards and the fullback’s nippy in a poor man’s Papenhuyzen sort of way.
But news that their CEO had offered the Canberra Raiders a direct swap of Luke Brooks and Moses Mbye for Jack Wighton and Josh Hodgson – akin to seeking a trade of your Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny Scanlen’s Gum cards for those of Stan Jurd and Graeme Olling – won’t make Brooks and Mybe or others in the team think, Why yes!, I will spill my guts for this club.
Manly by 26.