Manly search for answers in game 1,500
As 15th-placed Manly prepare to travel to Townsville to face a Cowboys side that has shown it can win even without its Origin stars, coach Geoff Toovey is hoping his "busted" squad can find the will to win in the club's 1,500th ever premiership match.
The Sea Eagles become the ninth club to reach the milestone; of current NRL clubs the Roosters, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs and fellow 1947 entrants Parramatta have already got there, while Balmain, the Magpies and St George Dragons are still represented by merged clubs and North Sydney have a NSW Cup side.
"It's fantastic for the club. I just saw my old teammate Cliff Lyons down here [at the club's Narrabeen base], he played in probably half of them," Toovey joked.
It's actually just over one fifth, with Lyons' 309 games making him the most-capped player in the club's history.
"We've won many grand finals, a grand final every decade so that's a fantastic achievement, we're had a lot of success here, also due to the good people we've got in the club, the support staff and the general community."
But when it comes to the more pressing matter of getting past a Cowboys side that proved too good for Wests Tigers in a dour 8-0 affair at Campbelltown on Saturday with Origin stars missing from both teams, Toovey said it will be a tall order with both halves Kieran Foran (hamstring) and Daly Cherry-Evans (arm) still missing.
"We're a bit busted still, both halves will probably be out. We've had a horrific injury toll this season and on the other side of that the Cowboys have won [eight] in a row so they're due for a loss," he said.
"They played fantastic without their stars on the weekend against the Tigers so that will give them some confidence. We've got our backs against the wall and we generally play at our best when we're in that situation."
Toovey was noncommittal on how he would rejig his backline to account for the absence of both main playmakers but said he was hopeful of having Foran back in a week or two.
Club captain Jamie Lyon was hopeful his side could lift to celebrate a win in the milestone game, adding the Round 11 bye had come at a good time for a few players carrying niggling injuries.
"It definitely came in handy but I think we've got two games and then another bye which makes it a little bit difficult but I think it's good for the guys that are struggling a little bit with their bodies. Hopefully we can go up to Townsville and play strong.
"I guess it's a little bit of a fresh start for us and probably came at a great time for us but we need a few more wins and it doesn't come much tougher than up there at Townsville."
Both Lyon and Toovey said it would be a boost for the club if they could retain Gold Coast-bound Cherry-Evans before the Round 13 deadline following the playmaker's cryptic interview on Fox Sports in which he said the club has two more weeks to try and come up with an offer that would force him to change his mind.
"It would be a great boost, there seems to be quite a bit of media around it for the last however long so it's definitely up to him. We'd love him to stay but if he doesn't it's obviously his decision," Lyon said.
"It's quite a bit of pressure he's had and I'm pretty sure he can't wait for Round 13."
In terms of how the side would combat a red-hot Cowboys outfit coming off a club record eight straight wins, Lyon joked it would be handy if their Origin cohort picked up a few injuries on Wednesday night.
"I think they're always strong anyway with all their players there, I'm sure if they get out there they're going to be raring to go. We've just got to treat it like any other game. It'd be nice for a few injuries from them but they're going to be strong regardless."