While it may be 12th vs 13th, with no top eight implications, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles clash the Gold Coast Titans, shapes as their very own "Grand Final" for the sides involved. For the winning side, they can rest easy knowing they are just about safe from the dreaded wooden spoon, however, for the loser, they face a stressful end to the season and the prospect of finishing the 2018 season in last place.
Manly enter this match with a sense of confidence having beaten fellow wooden spoon contestants, the Bulldogs. However, any positive inroads they made last week will be put to the test after a week of intense speculation around their coach and administration. With coach Trent Barrett all but confirmed to be resigning as coach that the conclusion of the season, it'll be interesting to see whether the playing group reacts positively, or negatively, to the news that their coach is abandoning ship.
The Titans come into this match on the back of a heartbreaking loss to Penrith last start. However, the young side will take confidence from the fact they were able to push the premiership contenders right to the final whistle. For the second week in a row the Titans come up against a side going through controversy surrounding their coach, however, the Glitter Strip club will hope for a different outcome is time around.
2018 - Rd 5 - Gold Coast Titans 32 def. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 20 at Marley Brown Oval
2017 - Rd 11 - Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 30 def. Gold Coast Titans 10 at Cbus Super Stadium
2016 - Rd 15 - Gold Coast Titans 30 def. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 10 at Cbus Super Stadium
2015 - Rd 18 - Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 38 def. Gold Coast Titans 6 at Cbus Super Stadium
2014 - Rd 23 - Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 15 def. Gold Coast Titans 12 at Cbus Super Stadium
The past five clashes between these two sides date back to 2014, Manly hold a slight edge having won three of the last five, however the Titans have won two of the three most recent clashes. Surprisingly, as these teams have generally only played one another once per season, the Titans have avoided visiting Lottoland for the past four years. Historically, the Sea Eagles hold a slight advantage, having won 10 of the 17 clashes between the two.
|Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles||Gold Coast Titans|
|1||Tom Trbojevic||Alexander Brimson|
|2||Jorge Taufua||Anthony Don|
|3||Moses Suli||Konrad Hurrell|
|4||Brian Kelly||Brenko Lee|
|5||Brad Parker||Phillip Sami|
|6||Dylan Walker||Kane Elgey|
|7||Daly Cherry-Evans||Ashley Taylor|
|8||Addin Fonua-Blake||Jarrod Wallace|
|9||Manase Fainu||Nathan Peats|
|10||Martin Taupau||Ryan James|
|11||Joel Thompson||Kevin Proctor|
|12||Shaun Lane||Keegan Hipgrave|
|13||Jake Trbojevic||Jai Arrow|
|14||Trent Hodkinson||Mitch Rein|
|15||Kelepi Tanginoa||Moeaki Fotuaika|
|16||Frank Winterstein||Jack Stockwell|
|17||Lloyd Perrett||Will Matthews|
|18||Matthew Wright||Brendan Elliot|
|19||Tom Wright||Jai Whitbread|
|20||Toafofoa Sipley||Leilani Latu|
|21||Taniela Paseka||Bryce Cartwright|
The Sea Eagles are as per programmed, meanwhile the Titans welcome back Brenko Lee. Kane Elgey retains his spot in the side with Alexander Brimson remaining at fullback for the injured Michael Gordon.
Facts that matter
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
As aforementioned, the biggest test for Manly this week is whether they can be focused enough to apply themselves with intense media speculation surrounding the future of their head coach. Sides historically have responded inconsistently when their club is faced with adversity and the mental fortitude of the Manly club will be tested. As for the coach Trent Barrett, it's unknown how he will respond if in fact the rumours are true that he has chosen to resign at the end of the season. Ultimately, the speculation and drama within the club will prove to make or break the Sea Eagles team.
Outside of the media storm that surround the club, the Sea Eagles enter this game on the back of a win against cellar dwellers, the Bulldogs. Although not necessarily winning, the Sea Eagles have been playing some solid football in recent weeks and will see the 13th place Titans as the perfect opportunity to flex their muscles. Fullback Tom Trbojevic starred in their last start and will be looking to continue his form over the final three games of 2018 in hope of achieving an Australian jumper at the end of the NRL season.
No-nonsense forward, Martin Taupau has been in great touch recently despite ongoing speculation around his playing future. His battle will opposition prop Ryan James will be intriguing as both players are known to make it personal and not to back down. Meanwhile, halfback Daly Cherry-Evans comes up against the side he disgracefully back flipped on in 2015.
Gold Coast Titans
This match is a season defining game for the Titans. Win, and they are likely to finish above the bottom four and are ruled out of wooden spoon contention. A loss however, puts them as a genuine chance of finishing the season in last place, or at the very least, another painful bottom four finish. This is effectively the Titans "Grand Final" and after a heartbreaking loss last week the Titans should be highly motivated to grasp victory.
It's no secret halfback, Ash Taylor, has struggled for form this season. Taylor tops the error count for the Titans and has generally struggled to lead the team at the young age of 23. With this in mind the Titans side need to make things easier for Taylor, if the Titans forward can get a roll on, and Elgey and Brimson involve themselves to a higher degree with game-management, Taylor's natural running game will come into play and he may rediscover the form that had him touted as a future State of Origin star.
Interestingly, Titans half, Kane Elgey, will face his future team after agreeing to switch to Manly on a two-year deal at season's end. Ironically, Elgey will partner up with Daly Cherry-Evans next season, the exact halves pairing the Titans planned on having for the 2016 season, before Cherry-Evans back flipped, and Elgey tore his ACL.
As the great Thirty Seconds to Mars song goes, It's time to do or die. This is a season defining game for both teams, winner avoids the wooden spoon and the loser faces a nervous few weeks. That said, the Sea Eagles also have to contend with the intense internal drama surrounding the club, and with that, the Titans will just be too desperate on the day. Titans by 4.
The Titans and the Sea Eagles meet with not much more than pride on the line. Who will come out on top? Let us know in the comments below.