Injury plagued Manly have no excuses
A horror start to the year with injuries has meant the Sea Eagles have barely had a training session with a full squad, nor finished a game with a full backline intact, which coach Geoff Toovey says has been a major disruption as the side lurched to a 1-3 start to the year.
The side once again won't be training with a full squad ahead of its Round 5 clash against Canberra at Albury's Lavington Park, but stressed he wasn't blaming the club's lengthening injury toll for the poor start to the year, with the side having been in a position to win two of the matches it lost.
"It has been tough losing players - I don't think we've completed a game with our full backline intact," Toovey said.
"We've lost several players for long periods - Josh Starling, Clint Gutherson, Steve Matai's been in and out for a little while and now Jamie Lyon looks like he's out for at least a week or two.
"I don't think [Feleti Mateo] will be much of a chance at all [to play this week]. He's got a knee and ankle [injuries], again - he'll be very unlikely."
Manly lost centre Clint Gutherson – himself an injury replacement for Steve Matai – for the year early in the Round 1 loss to Parramatta, resulting in a reshuffle with Tom Symonds moving to the centres.
Prop Brenton Lawrence aggravated a back injury in that game that has since ruled him out long term and five-eighth Kieran Foran strained a hamstring that saw him miss the closing stages of that game and the next two games.
Back-rower Blake Leary picked up a back injury against the Storm in Round 2 and hasn't been sighted since.
Centres Brayden Wiliame (concussion) and Steve Matai (shoulder) spent time off the field in the Round 3 loss to Canterbury, with Wiliame only included after Jamie Lyon was ruled out pre-game with a quad strain.
Lyon returned the following week in the loss to the Dragons and picked up a groin strain that has ruled him out of the Raiders clash, with Matai again racing the clock to be fit, while Feleti Mateo has been ruled out after going off with an ankle injury against St George Illawarra. Prop Josh Starling, playing his first game of the year, picked up a knee injury against the Dragons that will see him miss another substantial chunk of footy.
Winger Jorge Taufua (knee) and centre Tony Satini (shoulder) are yet to play this year after being injured in the pre-season.
Prop Willie Mason has also missed training this week due to a virus.
"[Mason] has been out the last couple of days with a virus. Hopefully he'll be ok before we head to Albury. Pretty confident it's just a 24 or 48 hour virus but I'm a little more concerned about our injuries," Toovey said.
"[Matai] still has to get through some fitness tests but we're hoping he'll be ok – he's not a certainty. We'll make the assessment a bit later in the week but we'll give him every opportunity.
"It's pretty hard to replace those key members of our backline so that's the difficult position we're at at the moment.
"It's very difficult to take those players into a game – which we've done over the last couple of weeks – and lose one of them throughout the match if you don't carry a specialist centre or outside back on your bench."
But he stressed the side had to take responsibility for its losses after being in the games against Canterbury and the Dragons.
"The last couple of games that we've lost, we've scored about the same number of tries as the opposition but we can't seem to find that extra try to get us across the line.
"We've been in most contests, the first game [against Parramatta] we probably weren't but the last couple of games we could have easily come out the victors, but just lacking that little bit of punch or something extra to get the two points.
"There's been some crisis in regards to injuries and as we mentioned before there hasn't been a steady run on side this year, we've been chopping and changing quite a bit. We haven't been doing it voluntarily but it has put a bit of a hiccup into our start to the season.
"There's always going to be a little bit of time to get some combinations right, we lost some senior players last year and those combinations take a while to form and that combined with our horrendous injury list has really disrupted things for us."