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A guaranteed finals berth would have most players and fans grinning ear-to-ear but it’s not the most important thing on Joey Manu’s mind.

The Roosters’ roaming centre is eyeing off the showdown with traditional rivals Souths at the all-new Allianz Stadium to keep a stunning winning streak – now extended to seven games – alive heading into the Telstra Premiership finals.

While it will be sweet for Manu to play finals after a facial fracture kept him out 12 months ago, he said the celebrated feud was all his teammates could talk about after dispatching the Storm.

“It’s awesome. But we’re just looking forward to next week to be honest. That’s a big game in itself. It’s nice to know we are (in the finals), but our focus is next week, and then the week after that,” Manu said.

“It’s going to be big. Obviously the new stadium, against the Rabbits – there’s no bigger game for us.

Match Highlights: Storm v Roosters

“I feel like we’re building something nicely. It was a good win (Friday night) but we still have to improve on a few things.”

Many pundits had written off the Roosters’ finals hopes after the Panthers handed them a fourth consecutive loss in Round 16. At the time, the club was languishing in tenth position, two wins outside the top eight and little seemed to be going right for the Tricolours, although Manu said the belief was always there.

The 26-year-old won’t take any credit but he has arguably been a catalyst for a tactical evolution at the Roosters, given a mandate to roam in the middle of the field to add an instinctive “backyard footy” style extra threat to an offence launching into the stratosphere.

So simple for Suaalii

It worked wonders against the Storm as he wreaked havoc, particularly in the first half as he amassed eight tackle breaks mostly in the middle of the field.

The slippery centre has started five games in his customary role as part of the Roosters’ winning streak, averaging 24.2 touches per game compared to 17 per game starting at centre earlier in the season.

Manu has 2.6 (13 in five games) and 1.1 (16 in 14 games) offloads respectively in the corresponding matches, while the numbers are astronomical in matches started at fullback or five-eighth.

The boom in touches and second-phase play comes with the added bonus of attracting more defenders in the middle of the field, often leaving them in his wake, before producing his miraculous late passes to add to his side’s roll forward.

Manu said he hadn’t changed much in his game, though he admitted to spending more time in discussions with his spine, listening and learning what makes them tick to develop the ultimate attacking threat.

“I just try to get the ball in my hands whenever I can. I’ve just enjoyed being there in the middle connecting with the forwards and also the halves and that too, so I just like playing what I see,” he said.

While the other title contenders now know Manu is coming at them more often, the big question is whether anyone can stop him as the Roosters aim to keep their remarkable run going right up to Grand Final day.

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.