Manly are expecting a strong reaction from South Sydney after Wayne Bennett described them as predictable and said their title chances were debatable.
Manly fear Wayne Bennett’s barb against South Sydney will come back to haunt the Sea Eagles in the NRL.
Bennett said “there wasn’t a coach in the NRL who doesn’t know how they’re going to play” after the Rabbitohs dismantled his Newcastle side last week and suggested their title credentials were “debatable”.
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire dismissed the comments as “noise in the background” ahead of Souths’ top-two blockbuster with Manly on Friday and said he was unfazed by Bennett.
But Manly fear the seven-time premiership winner may have stirred a hornets’ nest and that the Rabbitohs will use it as motivation against the table-topping Sea Eagles.
“I don’t think we will (be able to predict what Souths will do),” Manly coach Geoff Toovey said.
“I think those comments were taken a little bit out of context. Every side plays the same week in, week out, with just a little bit of variation.
“I think Souths are a quality side and I hope they don’t use that as motivation.”
Sea Eagles captain Jamie Lyon said he expected the Rabbitohs to be fired up by Bennett’s appraisal.
“I don’t agree with that comment,” Lyon said.
“I think they’re a tough side … They’ve got some players who can score some tries from anywhere. They’re not really predictable in my opinion.
“They’re a very strong side and they’re going to take some beating.”
Toovey says star pair Steve Matai (concussion) and Anthony Watmough (knee) will be fit for Friday night’s top-of-the-table clash.
Winger Jorge Taufua is expected to make his comeback from an ankle injury after missing the Sea Eagles’ past two outings, while backrower Justin Horo will make a comeback from a three-game suspension.
Toovey also allayed fears their fans have seen the last of Souths-bound Glenn Stewart (knee) in a Sea Eagles jersey.
Toovey said, while his recuperation from a knee injury had been slow, Stewart is expected to be back on deck before the finals.
For Souths, Ben Te’o will make his return from a one-game ban for a dangerous throw, while Sam Burgess is touch-and-go after being a late withdrawal with a shoulder problem last week.
When the sides last met, the Manly pack targeted Burgess but Toovey said they would not repeat that tactic for fear of inciting the English prop.
“You’ve got to leave them alone and hopefully they’ll stay out of the game,” Toovey said of Burgess brothers Sam, George, Tom and Luke.
“They’re quality players and I don’t think rattling them will put them off their game, so we won’t be doing that.
“We will definitely be trying to match them on the paddock.”