Struggling Sea Eagles ready for Roosters
Manly players stinging after a horror fortnight in which they conceded 92 points in consecutive losses have welcomed the chance to return to form against one of the best teams in the competition when they host the second-placed Roosters at Lottoland on Sunday afternoon.
Sea Eagles lock Jake Trbojevic has also welcomed the chance to face off against NSW State of Origin teammate Mitch Pearce, who he says has been unfairly criticised in the wake of the Blues' heart-breaking series loss.
"He seems to cop it for no reason every single time and everyone blames him. I don't know why," Trbojevic said.
"I thought he had a really good series, he's such a tough player, a competitor, never shirks any defensive work and that sort of stuff. He deserves a big back-end of the year."
Pearce and the Roosters would provide the perfect test for a Manly team looking to prove they are still as good as they were when surging into the top four mid-season, according to Trbojevic.
"[Pearce] is a great player, great leader and he's really tough, he's a great competitor. He's going to be playing some good footy this week so hopefully we can stop that.
"You always want to play against quality opponents and test yourselves as a team. This week's no different, it's going to be tough but we're looking forward to it."
In particular, Manly have been disappointed that their defence – which has been so reliable this year – has been so poor in the past two games.
"We've prided ourselves on [our defence] this year. There's no reason we can't turn it around," Trbojevic said.
"It's going to be tough this week, the Roosters are such a great side and in good form so it's going to be tough but we'll work really hard this week at training, fix our defence hopefully and our attitude and hopefully put in a good performance."
Trbojevic even felt the recent form slump could be a blessing in disguise as it could serve as a wake-up call ahead of the finals, but coming far enough from the end of the season that the team would have time to correct the issues.
"Hopefully it's just a little bit of a lull and we can fix it up. Hopefully it's a blessing in disguise, you work on a few things you need to work on and finish the year strongly," he added.
Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans welcomed the chance to face top-tier opposition in the team's quest to recapture its form.
"I'm definitely excited that we're playing the Roosters this weekend," Cherry-Evans said.
"One, because they're quality opposition and two, if you're going to get out of a form slump there's no better way to do it than against a top four side.
"I've got a lot of respect for the Roosters and the way they continually play at such a high level so for this side moving forward, what better opportunity than to respond by going out there and playing against a top four side and hopefully going out there and rectifying a few things we've done the last few weeks."
Centre Dylan Walker – who played a starring role and scored the match-winning try at Allianz Stadium when Manly beat the Roosters earlier in the year – said Manly's recent form slump was probably just what the team's critics have been waiting for.
"This is what people have probably been waiting for, these things from us," Walker said.
"[The Roosters] have been one of the top teams of the year and for us to go up against them this week after two hard losses, you really have to show some character as a collective group and you'll find out what we're made of I think."