The Sea Eagles had a chance to set themselves up for a certain finals berth early in the piece last week, but fell to a heavy defeat to Hornsby. That loss will have stung, but the side from the Northern Beaches have compiled a highly respectable 5-3 record to this point, which leaves them sitting in fourth position, but behind a Sutherland side that has played just five games and faces Hornsby this weekend.
Manly’s record to this point is made all the more impressive when looking at the list of teams they have defeated. The Sea Eagles have knocked off fellow finals contenders Sutherland, Bankstown, and Newcastle alongside a pair of expected wins over Illawarra and Hills. Furthermore, their three losses have come against the two undefeated sides in the competition: two losses to Hornsby, and one to Norths.
Having compiled a solid record so far, the Sea Eagles have set themselves up for a real tilt at a finals berth. With two games against Comets and reverse fixtures against Illawarra and Hills, Manly should be able to collect four more wins without too much trouble. Having already played three of their four games against the top two sides, and having beaten every other team that they have faced, Manly are well placed to collect at least 11 wins and secure a finals berth.
The Sea Eagles can go a long way to securing that finals berth with a win over Newcastle this weekend. Although they defeated the Hunters 90-52 on the road just two weeks ago, there was no Suzy Batkovic on the court for Newcastle in that game, and there will be no Belinda Snell on the court for Manly in this game, as she will be on the road with the Sydney Uni Sparks. A win in that game would not only further improve Manly’s prospects, it would all but end Newcastle’s chances of finishing above Manly, and no amount of WNBL MVPs suiting up for the Hunters would be able to change that. Newcastle would only be able to finish with 10 wins and Manly would own the season series.
The Belinda Snell factor plays not only into this game, but the remainder of the season. How many games will the Opals legend play? Which ones will she play? Having played just two games so far, will she play enough to qualify for finals? There are plenty of questions out there, and how they are answered may have a significant impact on Manly’s season.
Fear not though, Manly fans. With or without “Snelly”, your team has the firepower to secure the wins needed to confirm a postseason spot. The trick now is to put together a second half of the season as good as the first half.