Full-strength Manly out to derail Souths
Manly coach Geoff Toovey remains confident he’ll have the rare luxury of fielding his full-strength side for Friday’s NRL match of the round with South Sydney in Gosford.
Centre Steve Matai (ankle) and co-captain Jason King (sternum) have both been named but will have to prove their fitness.
“There are still doubts over both of them,” Toovey said.
“Stevie wasn’t as bad as we first feared and we are seeing how Jason pulls up … but it will be a late decision on the pair of them.”
Manly crept back into the top four last Saturday thanks to a gritty 8-6 win over North Queensland in an absorbing encounter in Townsville.
It was the first time since round one that Toovey had all his stars available, with the likes of Tony Williams, Brett and Glenn Stewart and Kieran Foran all missing large chunks of the season due to injury or suspension.
Although they have not matched the consistency of last year’s grand-final-winning campaign, the feeling around the Sea Eagles camp is their big-game experience and ability to grind out results is a big advantage leading into the finals.
“We’ve been a bit inconsistent this year, but we’re working our way into the competition, even though it’s round 23, but we feel if we’re there, then we’re a chance,” Toovey said.
It’s a feeling shared by Glenn Stewart, who was a member of the sides that won the 2008 and 2011 grand finals.
“It helps that we’ve been there before for sure, but in saying that, we’re not there yet, so we have to keep chipping away,” Stewart said.
“We know Souths will be a good test for us this weekend. I’ve been impressed by their back row. They work really hard. I know they have been without Greg Inglis, but it hasn’t seemed to affect them.”
Souths halfback Adam Reynolds has been one of the reasons for the run of six straight wins.
But Toovey pinpointed a rejuvenated John Sutton as another big factor.
“I’ve always had big raps on him. His biggest problem was inconsistency,” Toovey said.
“But he seems to have fixed that up and is playing great football.
“We knew he had the talent, but now he’s doing it week in, week out. He’s a real threat with the ball in his hands.
“He’s been tipped to make representative teams, and you can see why.”
Souths welcome back Issac Luke from a three-match suspension and have back-rower Sam Burgess free to play following his early guilty plea for a grade one careless high tackle.
Manly are without Darcy Lussick, who is serving the first of a two-game ban for striking.© AAP 2013
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