Manly ready to strike against Origin-hit Cowboys
Now is the time for Manly's forward pack to pounce on the Origin-affected Cowboys.
No Gavin Cooper, Coen Hess, or Michael Morgan on Queensland duty and no Matt Scott on suspension. And after a month on the road, the Sea Eagles are nesting at home – Lottoland – on Thursday night.
Now is the time for Manly to erase an unwanted statistic. The Sea Eagles have not defeated the Cowboys at Brookvale Oval since 2011.
The Manly engine room is ready. Alongside Marty Taupau, Addin Fonua-Blake, Shaun Lane and Joel Thompson, is a highly-motivated Lloyd Perrett.
He has been averaging less than 15 minutes in his last four games and although he has played 11 of the 12 rounds of the Telstra Premiership so far, you can't make much of an impact off the bench in that amount of time.
"I want to increase my minutes. I'm trying to step things up," Perrett said.
"That's something I've not been getting this year. As long as my team is winning I'm happy but individually I want to be getting some more minutes and playing better footy.
"This is a good opportunity for me so hopefully I make the most of it.
"If they are missing Mat Scott then they're going to be worse off because he's a very good player.
"They've been travelling a bit like us in losing close games. So they'll be itching for a win, feeling like a win is just around the corner. We'll make sure it's not against us."
Manly will be missing Jake Trbojevic in their forward pack, with Lane starting at No.13. But Api Koroisau is back from his one-match suspension for punching.
"You can't replace him because Jake is the only Jake," Perrett said defiantly.
"Jake has his own unique style where he promotes ball pay. But blokes like Addin and Marty and Shaun can do that as well – off-loads, playing before the line. So our middle will still be fine."
Perrett is loving being reunited with Trent Hodkinson, a former Origin winner to help bridge the gap left by the Trbojevics in the Blues camp.
"I was with Hodko at the Bulldogs. He's a steady head and all the boys are teasing him a little bit because that's how Baz [coach Trent Barrett] has described him in all our team meetings,'' Perrett said.
"But that's exactly what he is – a level head. Hodko can tackle well, pass well, kick well. People don't want to run straight at him.
"He is very good for us in that sense and we've been having a bit of success the last two weeks when he's been there with Chez [Daly Cherry-Evans]."
Manly need some wins. Cherry-Evans might want to prove the Queensland selectors wrong.
They are six competition points outside the eight and will be on the road again after their brief one-game stay at home – to the Warriors in Christchurch [round 14], then the Dragons in Wollongong [round 15] and the Panthers out at Penrith [round 16].