In Hodges we trust: Lyon
Exciting young Sea Eagles prospect Jayden Hodges has been given the nod of approval by captain Jamie Lyon as Manly gear up for a finals showdown with South Sydney on Friday night.
Hodges – the first cousin of Broncos captain Justin – will amazingly line up in his second successive finals series with just five NRL games of experience under his belt with the 20-year-old looking to fill the void left by hooker Matt Ballin who may miss the remainder of the season with a fractured fibula.
A new face out Narrabeen way in 2014 after playing three games with the Cowboys last season, including their qualifying final loss to Cronulla, Hodges will be hot to trot according to his experienced captain who believes the rake won't be overawed by the situation.
"It is just another footy field. It has the same dimensions and all that sort of stuff so I'm sure [Hodges] will be fine. I'm sure he'll be jumping out of his skin so hopefully we can feed off that," Lyon said at the NRL Finals Captains Call on Monday morning.
"Jayden gives us a little bit of spark out of dummy half and a little bit of excitement and a bit of speed there and it is really good to see him get a bit of run.
"While I think we missed Ballin a little bit out there on the weekend because he's been such an underrated player of ours over the years, hopefully down the track they can play in our side at the same time."
With the Sea Eagles entering the finals fresh off a 30-16 loss to the fifth-placed Cowboys last Saturday night, Lyon insists his team has "moved on already " from the disappointment that saw them miss out on the minor premiership at the last hurdle.
"It wasn't our best day in the office but we know what we did wrong and we'll fix that up for the Rabbitohs," Lyon said.
"It is business as per usual for us. We have to hold the ball, it is a basic thing, but it puts us under so much pressure and we have to start getting our completions up to where they need to be.
"We haven't played our best footy over the past month or so really. It is something we have spoken about and want to improve."
A tough task beckons for Manly, who are currently faced with a scenario of perhaps further missing influential duo Brett Stewart (ankle) and Brenton Lawrence (knee).
With the Rabbitohs accounting for the Sea Eagles 23-4 back in Round 22, Lyon didn't shy away from the challenges that lay ahead, especially his own match-up with young Bunnies centre Kirisome Auva'a.
"It is going to be a massive game. There is plenty excitement around with it being the semis and we are really looking forward to it," Lyon said.
"[Auva'a is a] good player and you always want to test yourself against the best players in the competition. The way they [Auva'a and teammate Dylan Walker] are going they are certainly on the way up and they are going to be hard to contain."