Match Preview: Eels NYC v Sea Eagles, Grand Final
Holden Cup Grand Final Preview: Parramatta Eels v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
The biggest day of the season kicks off in style with the Parramatta Eels taking on the giant-killing Sea Eagles in the Holden Cup grand final.
There are countless reasons for you to watch the best youngsters in the game strut their stuff, and emotions will be running high with the NYC to come to an end as we know it after 10 unforgettable years.
Some of the game's elite forged their path through the under-20s competition with grand final day often tossing up the greatest storylines.
From Canberra's golden point try in the inaugural decider to the Roosters' record-breaking comeback in 2016, the NYC has been blessed with some outrageous matches on the big stage.
The teams might be different on Sunday but the stakes are equally high and you can bet there will be a play or two that we will be talking about in another 10 years' time.
Parramatta might have started the year slowly but Luke Burt's men have always been there or thereabouts in 2017 and thoroughly deserve their place in what will be the club's maiden grand final appearance.
Manly's campaign has been as rough as peak-hour traffic on Spit Road with the Sea Eagles mixing patches of brilliance with form slumps to sneak into eighth spot on for and against. They were tipped to bow out in Week One of the finals but have instead knocked out teams ranked fifth, first and third on the ladder to secure their second grand final berth in three years, just 12 months after they finished 16th.
The Eels have named a settled line up following their preliminary final win over Penrith, but you can expect a couple of late changes with Reed Mahoney likely to start at hooker, Denzal Tonise in the front row and Sean Keppie on the bench.
The Sea Eagles have brought back Zaan Weatherall and Josh Tuivaiti on the bench, while big man Taniela Paseka is in the reserves and is a chance to return from injury.
Why the Eels can win: He wasn't there when the Eels fell to Manly in Round 1 but the Sea Eagles won't be so lucky this time around with powerhouse winger Greg Leleisiuao ready to let loose for the blue and golds. There is no stopping Leleisiuao, with opposition defences simply hoping that they can limit his impact. In his two finals matches, the wrecking ball has run for 501 metres, scored three tries and broken 27 tackles. Not content to stay on the right wing, you can expect to see him roaming all over the field as he looks for defensive mismatches.
Why the Sea Eagles can win: Just like the Cowboys have shown in the NRL, being the underdog counts for little when you have momentum and endless self-belief. The Sea Eagles haven't just scraped their way past higher-ranked opposition; they've smashed them with wins by 14, 20 and 16 points. Despite finishing eighth, history suggests it is possible to go all the way with the 2014 Warriors defying their ranking to claim the title. Their spine is arguably the best in the competition and they have plenty of strike in the form of Tevita Funa and last week's hat-trick hero, lock Haumole Olakau'atu.
The history: Played 18; Eels 6; Sea Eagles 12. The Sea Eagles have dominated this rivalry over the years, with the bulk of Parramatta's wins coming in seasons when Manly claimed the wooden spoon.
What are the odds: The Eels have opened $1.38 favourites for the grand final with Manly likely to receive some support at the $2.93 price. Parramatta winger Greg Leleisiuao is the shortest-priced option to be first try scorer ($8.50) and last try scorer ($9).
Match officials: Referee: Phil Henderson. Assist referee: Adam Cassidy. Sideline officials: Todd Smith and Jake Sutherland.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live Coverage from 1pm. Fox Sports 2 – Live coverage from 1:30pm.
NRL.com predicts: Don't be fooled by the rankings because this Sea Eagles team is capable of anything. There's a lot to like about their attack and their spirit, but the question is whether they can produce a fourth upset in as many weeks. Even without halfback Troy Dargan, the Eels look like a well-oiled machine who can score points at the flick of a switch. Look to Reed Mahoney to have a blinder as Parramatta run out 14-point victors.