STORM v SEA EAGLES
AAMI Park, Friday 7.45pm
MANLY duo Kieran Foran and Jason King admit the Sea Eagles will need to lift if they are to topple fierce rival Melbourne Storm and reach their fourth NRL grand final in the past six seasons.
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The Manly Sea Eagles have defeated the North Queensland Cowboys 22 to 12 at Allianz Stadium.
Sea Eagles co-captain King conceded his team must be at its best against the Storm on Friday night at AAMI Park. ''Playing Melbourne means it will be a hard game, they're always well prepared,'' King said. ''We have to be ready for the challenge.''
Manly hooker Matt Ballin refused to buy into the anticipated hype that would accompany the preliminary final after tensions between the Storm and Sea Eagles spilled over in last year's wild brawl in what had become known as ''Donny-brookvale''.
''It's a final so it doesn't matter what the history between us is,'' Ballin said.
''They're a great side but we're going OK.
''The team that comes best prepared and completes their sets will win, I think. To beat Melbourne we will need good completions and good defence.''
The Sea Eagles escaped with a scrappy and controversial 22-12 semi-final victory over North Queensland on Friday night and Foran believed this week's game, with Storm having enjoyed a week's break after demolishing South Sydney, will be even more difficult.
''We're going to have to go up another level again,'' Foran said. ''They're going to be fresh. They were very clinical against the Rabbitohs … It is tougher playing them [in Melbourne]. They seem to always turn it up a little bit more when they're playing at home.''
North Queensland prop James Tamou predicted Manly would not defend its premiership based on its performance against the Cowboys.
''Based on [Friday] night's game, no I don't reckon they'll win the premiership,'' Tamou said. ''We sort of let ourselves down but I don't think Manly is a premiership-winning team.''
King said the Sea Eagles were aware they would need to pinpoint some areas of Friday's performance where they could improve.
''We'll have a look at the tape and pick out some areas we need to improve on. And we'll study [Storm's] tape as well and have a look at their threats, that's for sure.''
Foran, then only 18, was given an eye-opening experience in his finals debut in 2009 when he and his teammates were dominated by a rampant Storm outfit, which belted the visiting side 40-12 and ended their season.
That Storm team would go on to win the grand final before having its premiership stripped for gross salary cap breaches the following year.
Manly will welcome back centre Steve Matai from suspension for the Storm clash.