Throwback Thursday: Prelim perfection
It does not get much bigger than taking on your biggest rival in a preliminary final, in your very own backyard.
That is the proposition Storm faced in 2012 when the Sea Eagles came to town with a spot in the NRL Grand Final on the line.
As if that was not enough, the fierce battles the two clubs had waged in recent years only added to the hype.
Storm had won 40 of their past 50 home games in Melbourne while Manly’s record down south was far from ideal, losing seven of nine.
History was still on the side of the Sea Eagles though, who had not lost a Preliminary final since 1975.
The critics had written Melbourne off earlier in the year after they lost five straight games during the Origin period. However they responded to win six games in the row, conceding less than 12 points per game over that stretch.
Manly were on a roll themselves, having won eight of their past nine heading into this prelim.
Storm received a significant boost prior to kickoff with Will Chambers returning to the side after missing the Qualifying final win over South Sydney due to a hamstring injury.
The game also marked Ryan Hinchcliffe’s 100th game in the purple jersey.
The men in purple burst out of the gates and it was mercurial playmaker Cooper Cronk who delivered the game’s first try after just five minutes.
Billy Slater, seven games into his return from a knee injury, proved that he was back to his best when he added a second shortly after. As Will Chambers was tackled just short of the line, Slater swooped in to pick up the ball from dummy half and dive for the line, with his try effort given the benefit of the doubt by the video referee.