Sea Eagles search for positives
After an opening blitz that saw them fall behind 40-0 against the Rabbitohs in their qualifying final loss last week, Manly players insist there are positives for the injury-ravaged team ahead of their sudden-death semi-final against the Bulldogs on Saturday.
The side has been dealt a series of blows of late, with hooker Matt Ballin no guarantee of being back this week from a cracked fibula, form lock and back-up hooker Jamie Buhrer out for the season with a ruptured ACL, third-choice hooker Jayden Hodges in doubt after being stretchered off last week, and now Origin back-rower Anthony Watmough suspended for a week for a dangerous throw.
Star fullback Brett Stewart said there is "definitely" enough of that famous Manly fighting spirit within the side to get the job done.
"I don't know what happened [last week], the first 10 [minutes] I thought we were having a good crack then 10 or 15 minutes later we were sort of 18 points behind.
"For them younger guys I think that's a learning curve, that's what can happen in semi finals. All it takes is a little lapse and before you know it you're behind the eight ball."
In terms of a fix, Stewart said it was just a simple case of coming back to training and working on the little things.
"We just did video there and picked up a few things. I think they'll probably try and come through the middle just like Souths did. We've got a lot of work to do there, we're not trying to shy away from that," he said.
Bench forward Jesse Sene-Lefao insisted there were positives to take from a late 24-point streak that closed the final margin against the Rabbitohs to a more respectable-looking 40-24.
"I reckon last week there were a lot of positives that we can take out of the game. This week's another game and a new start for us and we're feeling really confident for this week," he said.
"The last 20 minutes was positive, getting a few tries – that brings confidence for the team. Finals footy is exciting times."
Sene-Lefao said he had been "shocked" to see Manly fall behind 40-0 but had wanted to at least finish the game strongly. "It was a credit to the boys we put some points together and made the score more respectable," he added.
"Hopefully our fans can all get down to the game this Saturday and give us support. I know when they're there they give me energy and they give the boys energy."
Sene-Lefao said the side loved being backed into a corner and written off.
"A few injuries to our team, [backs] against the wall, we love that. Whoever fills those spots, they're going to do a good job, we're feeling really confident for this week."
Stewart, speaking ahead of the club's decision to take the early plea on Watmough's charge, said "Choc's been one of our best forwards all year, we need him in the side to win I think".
But he added: "Some years you have injuries like we're going through now, young blokes come up and step up to the plate, we've done it throughout the whole year."
In-form lock Tom Symonds said the Sea Eagles had identified a few areas they needed to improve on after the Rabbitohs game.
"Obviously that wasn't ideal [falling behind 40-0], we're going to have to fix it up quick smart. There were a few positives to come out of the game and we also looked at those and we'll try and build on them for next week," he said.
"We came out with the right intensity but some of our defence wasn't up to scratch; we made a few bad reads in our kick chase, they were on fire, playing really fast and we couldn't handle them so we're going to have to be better this week."