Fierce rivals ... Manly Sea Eagles and Melbourne Storm face off in tonight's preliminary final. Photo: Getty Images
MANLY don't like Melbourne and Melbourne don't like Manly - not that any of the players would admit that on the eve of their preliminary final at AAMI Park.
They are two of the powerhouses of the modern era, but their rivalry, albeit fiery at times, is built on mutual respect and admiration. They've gone head-to-head in two grand finals for two different results, but their most memorable match-up - at least as drama is concerned - was the spiteful round 25 clash at Brookvale Oval last season.
Emotions spilled over on that unforgettable night and they are sure to come to the fore when the two teams go toe-to-toe tonight.
But Manly prop Brent Kite insists the Sea Eagles hold their nemesis in high regard, admitting his side had learned a lot from the way the Storm conduct themselves, on and off the field.
''At one stage they were, I don't know if big brothers is the right word, but in '06 and '07 they were right there and we were just coming up,'' Kite said. ''We jagged ourselves the '07 grand final and got taught a bit of a lesson there. There is a fair history and I don't mind saying there was a healthy respect for the Storm because of the professionalism at the club and the way they turned up for every game.''
Only four players - Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Ryan Hoffman - from Melbourne's '07 and '08 grand final teams will play in tonight's preliminary final. The salary cap scandal, which stripped the Storm of their 2007 and 2009 premierships, rocked the club and had ramifications on their playing roster.
They lost Israel Folau, Greg Inglis and Matt King, but in the two years that followed they've made consecutive preliminary finals.
Kite paid tribute to the culture at the club and heralded coach Craig Bellamy for the success of the once-besieged football club.
''It speaks a lot to the bunch of guys they have got down there and the senior guys, Craig as well,'' Kite said.