Manly out to snap NRL finals trend
THE NRL finals are here and for the first time since 2010, games will be able to be hosted at local grounds - much to the Manly Sea Eagles' joy.
The Storm will host the Raiders at AAMI Park, the Roosters play the Rabbitohs at the SCG and the Eels take on the Broncos at Bankwest Stadium.
But the sixth-placed Sea Eagles' home final at Lottoland was threatened after traces of asbestos were found at the ground.
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While Bankwest was on standby to host the game, the Sea Eagles and Northern Beaches council had to assure the NRL of fan safety.
It was the latest issue that has marred the ground in 2019. Issues with the turf, low crowd numbers to start the season and constant talk of Manly being under threat have dogged the team this season but the Sea Eagles faithful have responded with three of their final four home games of the season attracting about 15,000 fans.
Playing at home is a great sign for the Sea Eagles who handed the Sharks a horror record at the ground.
The Sharks have won just five of the 46 games played between the teams at the venue in their history, with their last win coming 11 years ago in 2008.
The Sea Eagles even hold a stunning record of 10 wins in the last 11 games between the sides.
But, over the years, home ground advantage hasn't been everything in finals.
Since the NRL returned to the eight-team finals system in 1999, the home team in finals games have won just under two-thirds of the matches with the record slightly higher since the league took on the modern finals system from the 2012 season.
The Sea Eagles are in the most difficult position with the team finishing seventh defeating the team finishing sixth in four of seven finals since the new format was adopted. The seventh placed team also used to be the second-placed team regularly as well, with the seventh-placed team winning seven of the 13 seasons under the previous McIntyre finals system as well.
But playing at home is huge advantage according to injured Sea Eagle Tom Trbojevic.
"It's massive for us. It's a big to play at Brookie in front of a packed Lottoland crowd," Trbojevic said.
"I'm really looking forward to the boys running out there on the weekend and see a sea of maroon and white there on the hill. It's a big lift for us, we're most comfortable playing footy there.
"I wouldn't know how to put an actual figure on it but I know for myself it's a real confidence boost because you've got the crowd backing you, it's your home ground, it's where you like playing footy so it's a big lift to be playing there.
"But in saying that, you've still got to turn up and put your best footy forward. We're up against real quality Sharks side."
The Sea Eagles have been on fire at Lottoland this year with eight wins. The losses only came to the Storm, Roosters and Rabbitohs, as well as the wooden spoon winning Titans, who faced Manly during the depths of an injury crisis.
Trbojevic has had an unlucky season with injury, which was ended with a torn pectoral muscle against the Storm in round 24.
He said the injury is "unfortunate but that's just what happens sometimes".
It's been a huge turnaround in form for the Sea Eagles, who went from 15th to 6th and according to Trbojevic, it's on the back of returned coach Des Hasler and hardening up the side's defence.
The Eels' turnaround is just as stunning. From wooden spooners in 2018 to fifth in 2018, centre Michael Jennings told news.com.au the entire club was buying into the message from coach Brad Arthur.
Jennings, who accompanies rookie Fijian sensation and NRL leading tryscorer Maika Sivo on the Eels left edge, said the Eels are desperate to make Bankwest a fortress.
He added it already feels like home with an average of 20,722 fans per game for Eels games.
The Eels have won eight of their 10 matches at the ground so far this season, including the memorable 51-6 win over the Wests Tigers in round six to officially open the ground.
"We wanted to make Bankwest our home stadium," Jennings said.
"I know it's been shared with other teams but it's in Parramatta and the Parramatta fans have been unreal. They know that Bankwest is our stadium but we wanted to make it our home and every time we go there, we put on the best performance we can for our home fans. The atmosphere that going to be there on the weekend is going to be unreal, it really will."
The Roosters Angus Crichton also added the Roosters are eager to make the SCG big part of their history.
After being moved out of Aussie Stadium for three years as it is rebuilt, the Roosters have won eight of nine games at the ground, losing only to the Rabbitohs in round one.
Crichton said he hopes the Roosters can add to the historic nature of the ground.
"It's pretty cool, it's got a lot of history the place," Crichton told news.com.au. "For me, it's been all I've known since I've been at the Roosters, the only home ground I've had. It's our home ground for the next three years and I think it's something we can use to our own advantage.
"It's special for us the fact that Grand Finals were played there back in the day, Don Bradman's been out there in the middle. There's a lot of old history and old sports stories out there so it's cool to be able to play a part in such an iconic ground."