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Warriors v Manly: Key Match-ups

By David Skipwith

Published: 7:10AM Sunday October 02, 2011 Source: ONE Sport

There are great match-ups across both teams in today's Grand Final between the Warriors and the Sea Eagles and we believed three positions and players will be crucial in determining which side comes out on top.

It might come down to just one of these players dominating their opposite but if one team can win two or more of these individual battles they will go a long way to winning the Grand Final.

Fullback: Kevin Locke v Brett Stewart

Two players invaluable to their teams prospects - both provide tremendous attacking thrust, are safe under the high ball and are great defenders.

The two have different styles - Locke is always a threat in broken play but its his speed out of dummy-half that makes him so dangerous - either working the ball off the Warriors line early in the tackle count or catching the opposition forwards out like he did so brilliantly against the Tigers.

Like his smaller halves pairing, James Maloney and Shaun Johnson, Locke can require support from bigger forwards when defending their own line but the slightly built fullback is a terrific cover defender and has the speed to cut down any attacking raid.

Stewart tends to hang out wide looking to run off his halves, Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran, or trail in support of his brother Glenn and fellow backrower Anthony Watmough, as their big forwards like to attack the edges of the ruck.

He has an uncanny knack for sniffing out tries and like Billy Slater you are guaranteed he will make his mark on any game at some stage, it is more a case of the Warriors working to limit his opportunities.

Both are a good bet for the Clive Churchill medal.

Five-eighth: James Maloney v Kieran Foran

Both teams fortunes hinge greatly on which five-eighth is able to stamp himself on the match.

Foran directs play beautifully for the Sea Eagles. He runs to the line and is physical enough to push on through or occupy one or two defenders before putting his outsides into space.

The young Kiwi likes to move the ball one and two off the ruck and will be looking to run Manly's big-boppers at the smaller Warriors' such as Maloney, Johnson, and into the centre pairing of Krisnan Inu and Lewis Brown.

Foran's kicking game is both big and accurate and Manu Vatuvei can be certain to come under close inspection while defensively he hits like a backrower.

Maloney's kicking game is vital to the Warriors and if he can muster another display like that against Melbourne where he and Johnson trapped the Storm inside deep inside their own half for much of the match, the Warriors will be in with a huge chance.

Maloney has all the skills and his running game ignites much of the teams attack. He is another one of the Warriors X-factor players and is not afraid to chance his arm with a chip-and-chase or a 40-20 kick when they need it most.

Defensively he is a real competitor and capable of putting a shot on much bigger opponents, however statistics show he has missed more tackles than anyone else through the finals. That is often the case with halves in any side - the exception perhaps being Manly.

Second-row: Feleti Mateo v Anthony Watmough

Mateo's offloading skills are well documented but opposition teams still struggle to contain him.

Despite the Warriors reputation for the loose play, Mateo and his fellow forwards have been playing it tighter since the second half against the Tigers two weeks ago and carried that on superbly against the Storm.

Mateo spoke this week about how 'ugly footy' had been working for the Warriors and they have shown everyone they love the tough stuff and can grind out a win.

When the time comes for the razzle-dazzle you can be sure Mateo will play his part but as one of just three Warriors with previous Grand Final experience, Mateo will be leading the way for his younger less experienced teammates.

Watmough is part of a huge Sea Eagles backrow along with Tony Williams and lock Glenn Stewart, that has bashed and barged their way over most forward packs throughout the season.

He has been in great form all year and believed to be on the verge of reclaiming his Australian jersey for the Four Nations tournament in October.

In past clashes the Warriors have been dominated by Watmough and co running down the left and right channels, causing our edge defenders great confusion and forcing misreads in defence.

The Sea Eagles will bank on repeating that tactic but the Warriors have hopefully learned from those mistakes and are well conditioned after recent tough games.