High-flying Manly Warringah Sea Eagles will host out-of-form Canberra Raiders at (unfortunately empty) 4 Pines Park on Thursday night and it promises to be: a) an entertaining blow-out with the home side dominating weak-minded “Faders”; or b) an entertaining, ding-dong go between reborn competition heavyweights on both sides of the ledger.

Yet we’ll plump for Exhibit A given, well, the vastly differing form lines of both squads.

Because while both teams will be missing Origin stars, Canberra has been pretty good in first halves and pretty very very very bad in seconds.

The “six again” rule has meant, for whatever reason, that when sides gain confidence and momentum, they can pile on points.

Manly has been great at it.

Canberra, meanwhile, were last week spanked 44-6, in Canberra, by Gold Coast Titans, the team Manly put 56 points on.

Riddle me that, odds-makers.

And given form, talent and home ground advantage (even if empty), we’ll stick with Exhibit A – Manly to verily smoke Bad Faders – even without the free-running conqueror of worlds who is Tom Trbojevic and the crafty, darting generalissimo Daly Cherry-Evans.

Because: not turning out for the Raiders are: super six Jack Wighton (Origin), beating heart Elliott Whitehead (injured), talented tyke Bailey Simonsson (injured) and Josh Papali’i, owner of the worst mullet since that dud film Mullet (Origin).

And thus, you would suggest, they’re missing hope of any kind.

There is hope. Mad backrower Hudson Young is back as is big rig Ryan James who’ll begin from the bench. Indeed Canberra’s bench – James, Tom Starling, Iosia Soliola and Joseph Tapine – is not the worst quartet since Michael Jackson left the Jackson Five.

And maybe, just maybe, baby, this is the sort of banana skin game Manly fans feared last week before obliterating the Bulldogs 66-nil.

An interesting thing: Josh Schuster is still not back for the Sea Eagles, it’s now been 7 weeks and you sense we’re not hearing everything about his precious calf, nor how much cotton wool one needs to wrap around the prodigiously talented five-eighth and nephew of All Blacks man John.

So there is that.

There is also this: Jake Trbojevic is still out.

And this: Dylan Walker will run about in the No.7 alongside Kieran Foran who will run much of the game management given Walker’s a running gun like Foran once was.

Cade Cust‘s on the bench.

Reuben Garrick, meanwhile, takes over Trbojevic’s fullback role and Moses Suli takes over Garrick’s wing. Garrick ratcheted up 30 points from two tries and 11 conversions from eleven attempts against the hapless Bulldogs at Bankwest on Saturday, and you’d suggest he hasn’t leaked confidence because of it.

Canberra has some hard heads in the forwards and a cracker in the No.9, but will be outgunned across the park by the all-running sea birds of these our northern beaches.

Prediction: Manly 44 Canberra 18

MANLY

  • 1. Reuben Garrick
  • 2. Jason Saab
  • 3. Brad Parker
  • 4. Morgan Harper
  • 5. Moses Suli
  • 6. Kieran Foran
  • 7. Dylan Walker
  • 8. Taniela Paseka
  • 9. Lachlan Croker
  • 10. Martin Taupau
  • 11. Haumole Olakau’atu
  • 12. Karl Lawton
  • 13.Sean Keppie
  • 14, Cade Cust
  • 15. Ben Trbojevic
  • 16. Kurt De Luis
  • 17. Toafofoa Sipley

CANBERRA

  • 1. Xavier Savage
  • 2. Semi Valemei
  • 3. Jarrod Croker
  • 4. Sebastian Kris
  • 5. Jordan Rapana
  • 6. Matt Frawley
  • 7. Sam Williams
  • 8. Emre Guler
  • 9. Josh Hodgson
  • 10. Dunamis Lui
  • 11. Corey Harawira-Naera
  • 12. Hudson Young
  • 13. Ryan Sutton
  • 14. Tom Starling
  • 15. Ryan James
  • 16. Iosia Soliola
  • 17. Joseph Tapine

Sea Eagles Outs

  • Daly Cherry-Evans
  • Tom Trbojevic

Raiders Outs

  • Bailey Simonsson
  • Elliott Whitehead
  • Jack Wighton
  • Josh Papalii

Match Officials

  • Referee: Adam Gee
  • Touch Judge: Peter Gough
  • Touch Judge: Dave Munro
  • Senior Review Official: Henry Perenara