DEFENDING NRL premiers Manly are negotiating a deal with the West Australian government that could result in the club surrendering its home ground advantage to play bitter rivals Melbourne in Perth.
The rematch against the Storm after last year's round 25 ''Donnybrookvale'' game was marred by a wild free-for-all has become the season's most anticipated match-up.
The decision to even consider transferring the clash to Perth is certain to anger fans. The round 15 showdown is one of two games the Sea Eagles faithful are sweating on - the other being against the Des Hasler-coached Canterbury after he dramatically swapped camps after the grand final triumph.
Manly would effectively sacrifice a full house, maximum gate receipts, bar takings at their club and the home game advantage by travelling 3300 kilometres across the continent.
However, it has been suggested the club could make four times the revenue it would at Brookvale by playing Melbourne in Perth. The West Australian government's financial backing is needed to underpin the cost to transport and accommodate the two teams and their support staff as well as the extra expense to Foxtel of televising the clash.
The WA government is considering outlaying the cash because it views the match as an investment and another opportunity to ''sell'' Perth as the perfect location to base a team in the soon-to-be expanded NRL premiership.
Manly boss David Perry declined to comment last night but the Western Australian Rugby League chief executive, John Sackson, confirmed there were talks between Manly, the NRL and his state's government.
''There's a plan being worked on,'' he said. ''I've had discussions with David Perry and the relevant senior management at the NRL. I know the West Australian government has been approached by them … while the negotiations are under way nothing has been finalised.''
Sackson, who has worked tirelessly to push his state's bid to be included in an expanded NRL premiership, was ecstatic that Manly had considered Perth to host such a prestigious match.
''If this game can take place against the Storm, if the planets align and it can come together financially, it'll be an appealing game,'' he said. ''It's going to be against the Storm and the first time they've met since the infamous 'Battle of Brookvale' last year.
''Anyway, that's their plan and we really hope they can get it together.''
Sackson said St George Illawarra's and North Queensland's trial match, to be staged there on February 11, had generated a lot of excitement and early indications suggested the March 23 premiership match between Souths and Brisbane would attract another bumper crowd.