Manly coach Geoff Toovey says star centre Steve Matai will return from a shoulder injury for the round-24 clash with Parramatta.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey says Steve Matai will return from a shoulder injury for Friday’s round-24 NRL clash with Parramatta, as the Sea Eagles seek to deliver a telling blow to the Eels’ finals hopes.
Star centre Matai will run out on Pirtek Stadium two weeks after being the victim of South Sydney’s controversial wrestling tactics.
They face an Eels side keen for revenge for their round-three loss after which captain Jarryd Hayne claimed the blue and golds were “robbed” by the referees, after a number of late calls went against them.
Toovey says Matai’s return is vital as Manly vie to keep their hold on the minor premiership.
“Steve Matai, we are pretty confident he will play,” Toovey said at training on Thursday.
“It is his last run today as he recovers from that shoulder injury from a couple of weeks ago, so that will help us out.
“He should play. We have to get those combinations going – that is important. It is going to be a very tough match against Parramatta.
“If everyone comes through unscathed, those tough encounters are very good in the lead-up to the semi-finals.
“We were probably lucky to get away with a win in the first encounter; they probably thought they should have won that game.”
A win for the ninth-placed Eels could push them into the top eight, if the Warriors or North Queensland lose on the weekend.
Manly remain on top of the competition ladder, one win ahead of Souths, who host the Cowboys on Saturday night.
Manly utility Jamie Buhrer said Matai’s return was crucial for last year’s grand finalists.
“His return is huge for us. He comes up with so many big plays during the game and it is not always the flashy step for a try,” Buhrer said.
“He puts his hand up for a lot of tough stuff in yardage. When we might be getting pounded in a corner, he will put his hand up and just burrow into the line and get that quick play the ball that gets us on the roll.
“He is just the kind of bloke you want around the team. He has got such a good attitude and it is infectious.
“So to have him back, and hopefully he is 100 per cent going to into the finals, he is a very important piece.”