And so to eerily empty BankWest Stadium on Saturday afternoon when the high-flying Manly Warringah Sea Eagles should verily trounce Canterbury Bulldogs.

The home team has conceded 402 points in 14 games and bookmakers have listed them shorter ($1.45) than even Brisbane Broncos ($3.75) for the wooden spoon.

Never ever say never ever, of course.

But Manly will never ever lose this 3pm fixture, not no how.

Mangled grammatical tenses aside the point remains: Manly will not lose Saturday’s game against the Bulldogs and there are manifold reasons why, notably in reverse order form, cattle and Tom Trbojevic.

Canterbury do have an impressive list of “Ins”, however, if by “impressive” you mean a big number.

The Dogs have ten count ‘em 10 new men in their starting, bench and reserve line-ups, with Chris Patolo, Corey Allan, Falakiko Manu, Bailey Biondi-Odo (cracking handle, kid), Jackson Topine, Kyle Flanagan, Ofahiki Ogden, Renouf Atoni, Watson Heleta and King Wally Lewis‘s nephew Lachlan Lewis all in.

Whoever those people are, good luck to them.

Dylan Napa. Big unit. Big out. Pic: Bulldogs

Meanwhile seven (7) of their people are out including Dylan Napa who was on the lash in a pub in Bondi as many 28-year-olds not expected to adhere to strict bio-security protocols to protect their employer the National Rugby League from closing down were.

Something.

So Napa’s out, as is the not un-sexy sextet of Adam Elliott, Corey Waddell, Nick Cotric, Aaron Schoupp, Brandon Wakeham and Sione Katoa, players who might have added a semblance of starch to the Bulldogs’ cause.

But they won’t so they don’t, and … well.

Manly could score 70.

Because Tom. He could put 20 on himself. And you actually fear for the emotional wellbeing of these baby Bulldogs because a force of nature is coming to their house. And several will not have known the like of him before.

Something something.

Nature and a Force of Nature: Tom Trbojevic (left) and his brother Jake at Mudgee where the magic began. Pic: NRL.com

Something interesting is that … well, it’s a bit interesting, if you’re into this stuff, it’s not like Sir David Attenborough’s “Life on Earth” interesting. But it is a bit interesting.

And it is this:

Take out the first four Turbo-free games and Manly’s won eight of their last 10.

Canterbury, meanwhile, has lost eight of their last 10, on top of the four games before that.

So they won’t win. Okay? I believe we’ve made that plain.

So what are we playing for? Next week, really, if we’re honest and we are. Which means the talented if scattergun and “fading” Canberra Raiders at 4 Pines Park (or wherever they play it) on Thursday July 8.

That game looms as a banana skin for Manly if the Raiders play for 80 minutes instead of their usual forty. It’s also one of those 5-day turnarounds that coaches whinge about. Plus Manly will be without said Force of Nature Tom because Origin.

Josh Schuster: six-week calf injury stalled his season. The Raiders next week looms large. Pic: NSWRL

So there is all that.

On the flipside one assumes Josh Schuster will come back from the calf injury that’s kept him out for six weeks.

Jake Trbojevic, meanwhile, should go straight back into Origin camp if his hip is better.

Otherwise, our Manly Sea Eagles, who currently sit in 6th position and $6 with bookmakers to make the grand final, well, they are flyin’.

Because Tom. Because a few other things. But Tom. Because, well. How about him.

And yes, granted, it’s disrespectful to look beyond the Bulldogs and Raiders but, well, there it is. Sorry not sorry: the Sea Eagles’ run home is tasty.

Of their last ten games, only four teams are currently in the Top-8. Only two of those are above them – Storm and Eels.

The Raiders are coming. There form is terrible, at least in second halves. They get it right for 80 they can worry Manly at 4 Pines Park. Pic: Raiders

The other two in the top-8 (somehow) are Dragons and Sharks, the teams who – not Attenborough-interesting but still interesting – are the only sides to have lost to said wooden spoon favourites Manly plays on Saturday the Bulldogs.

So there you go.

And here we go: Out of Covid. Into 4 Pines Park. And then deep into the finals. September is calling, people. And Manly Sea Eagles will answer like so many howling Wolfmen.

Something something something.

Manly’s run home:

Bulldogs (A)

Raiders (H)

Dragons (H)

Tigers (H)

Sharks (A)

Storm (H)

Eels (H)

Raiders (A)

Bulldogs (H)

Cowboys (A)