Manly players laud 'awesome' Stewart
Manly fullback Brett Stewart's match-winning efforts in his side's 24-16 win over the Roosters on Friday night came on the back of a month of red-hot form, according to his team-mates.
Stewart produced a series of clutch plays both in attack and defence throughout the match and in particular during a dominant second half, and Manly forward Tom Symonds was full of praise for the custodian after the match.
"He's been awesome the last month 'Snake', he's really come into some good form," Symonds told NRL.com.
It wasn't just the classy try he scored or a great tackle to round up flying Roosters winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, or the quality kick out of dummy-half to earn his side some decent field position when they had been under enormous pressure.
The play that was arguably most impressive for Symonds came inside the final five minutes when both sides were gasping for breath after a frantic encounter and the home side were desperately clinging to a narrow 18-16 lead when five-eighth Kieran Foran grubbered towards Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello, who picked it up just outside his own in-goal.
However he was firmly met by a flying Stewart who bundled him back in-goal to earn his side a line drop-out, from which they scored shortly after to seal the match.
"When we put the ball down near the in-goal and he came and got that great tackle to get us the line drop-out with about five minutes to go, that was really important because we were pretty buggered and we scored not long after that," Symonds said.
"He's been on fire, he's been linking well with Kieran [Foran] and Daly [Cherry-Evans], he's looking really dangerous."
With incumbent Blues winger Will Hopoate ruled out of Game III with a shoulder injury, Symonds said the veteran of eight Origins wouldn't let anyone down if called up.
"He's been there and done it before so if they wanted someone else experienced in the backline I'm sure he'd do a good job," Symonds said.
Manly winger Peta Hiku, who has deputised at fullback this year when Stewart has been out injured, also praised the man who he said is a real leader on the field.
"He's really in form now; he's been in form the last couple of weeks which is real good for us. He's good at the back telling everyone in the front line what to do, I think that's a big part of our game," Hiku told NRL.com.
"I don't think he's ever quiet on the field. He's like one of the halves, he's telling [Daly Cherry-Evans] and Kieran Foran what to play so I think he's a real big part of our game."
As the man who could be the next Manly fullback whenever Stewart eventually decides to hang up the boots, Hiku said for now he is happy to learn from the master.
"I'm always listening out to what he's got to say, I'd really like to learn more from him," Hiku said.