Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles in the first NRL preliminary final. Kick-off at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane was scheduled for 7.50pm, but Manly’s team bus has been caught up in traffic and the start time has been pushed back 15 minutes.
There are just three matches and four teams remaining in the 2021 NRL season. The top four from the home and away season are all still in the mix, and tonight one of those powerhouses will make it through to the grand final.
South Sydney, led by the timeless Wayne Bennett, arrive as favourites. They are rested after enjoying a week off, and they will have spent that time soaking up the plaudits following their muscular victory over Penrith, a performance that showed the Bunnies are more than an entertaining collection of ball-players and broken field improvisers.
Souths’ qualifying final win has disrupted the course of a season that seemed destined to end with a Storm v Panthers decider. As a consequence, both these sides will see tonight’s fixture as an unexpected golden opportunity to reach the biggest day in Australian rugby league.
Manly were the form side in the run home but were put in their place abruptly by the Storm a fortnight ago. They rebounded emphatically with a clinical demolition of the Roosters. Against Easts Tom Trbojevic was irresistible and confirmed his status as the most dangerous player in the competition. His performance tonight will likely have the most bearing on the final score.