League ’08 preview. Lyon the key

Getting back to the basic things that really matter.

If the Manly Seaeagles are to fulfull their promise as the favorites for this event, and defeat the reigning champions, the Melbourne Storm, the Manly pivot Jamie Lyon holds the key due to his responsibilities in both defence and attack.

Lyon, a simple country lad, came to notice in 2001 as a portly but amazingly mobile and talented centre for Parramatta where he teamed with an unknown young kiwi Vialecki to form the best centre partnership in the comp by the end of the year. With a fair share of the luck on the big day that Parramatta side would have won the premiership and everyone agreed that the team of young stars only had to turn up in 2002 to go all the way. History records that they missed their best chance because representative duties, injuries and suspensions caught up in the following years. Lyon played for Australia and achieved the status of best centre in the game, but dropped out of the game and went back to Woop Woop for unexplained reasons , then he returned via a spell in England to the unlikely seaside location.

Getting back to his defence and attack.

His opposite number Greg Inglis was the man of the match in the decider last year and after Lockyer he is the most dangerous player in the game. Any time that Inglis is taken ball and all (sacked as they say in the US) a potential try-scoring opportunity is snuffed out. If he gets room to move on a regular basis, Manly are history. Unless there are other defensive plans in place it is clearly up to Lyon to match him in strength and speed. Lyon is big for a pivot which is just as well given the physical nature of the Melbourne game.

In attack, Lyon has emerged with a kicking game that was very much on display against the Warriors last week. When the Storm narrowly beat Manly the last time they clashed, the word was that Lyon would have made the difference and that looks like a good call. A team with only one playmaker and front-line kicker is highly vulnerable especially against a “take no prisoners” side like Melbourne. You can bet that the Manly halfback will be under intense pressure from the likes of Crocker as the sixth tacke (the last down) gets near, and Lyon gives a second option for the kick on the last play.

On the topic of not taking prisoners, Manly had better have plans for a defensive wall anytime that Inglis puts up a big floating bomb. They can’t afford to lose key players when a big forward gets through in time to flatten the catcher as he is stationary under the ball.

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15 years ago

The match looked over five minutes in.

The people assigned to run a microscope over today’s result need only visit two points:

1. When Melbourne won at Brookvale late in the season, Manly were clearly the better side. Melb won on the back of a couple of break-out moments.

2. The loss to the Warriors was key. Melb missed a week off, which meant they looked f**ked today; lost Cam Smith (had he played Manly still would have won); and revealed Melb to be vulnerable against bigger sides capable of denying their backline space.

In short: a flash, talented side, will generally be beaten by a better organised, bigger, more physical side.