Manly hooker Jayden Hodges, not Matt Ballin, is set to make a shock return from injury to meet Canterbury in their NRL semi final.
Manly are set to be granted the miracle injury recovery they were hoping for ahead of Saturday’s NRL semi-final against Canterbury, but hooker Matt Ballin is highly unlikely to play.
Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey on Friday all but ruled out the prospect of Ballin making a shock return from a leg fracture suffered just three weeks.
But Toovey said back-up rake Jayden Hodges should be good to go despite being rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital for neck X-rays shortly after halftime in Manly’s 40-24 loss to South Sydney in last Friday’s qualifying final.
“Matt ran a couple of days ago, he pulled up a little sore so he will probably be a long shot, but we are hoping Jayden Hodges will be right to play,” Toovey said.
“One of the two will be playing but Matty Ballin would be a bit of a risk.
“For Jayden it was no dramas, there is no injury there in the sense it is showing up on any scans.
“So he pulled up OK, a bit sore and sorry but he should be fine.”
“We are missing a few key players, our starting backrow is out.
“Glenn Stewart has been out for most of the year, Jamie Buhrer has done his cruciate and now Anthony Watmough is suspended, so it has been very tough in that area.
“But the blokes who are in there Justin Horo and Tommy Symonds have done a great job and I’m sure they will tomorrow night.”
If Hodges is also ruled out, Toovey could opt to move Queensland playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans to hooker and shift captain Jamie Lyon from centre to the halves.
Lyon was remained coy on that possibility.
“I don’t know, I can’t really give too much away there,” he said.
“We have a few options there we will just have to wait and see.
“We have to come up with a hooker, we have to come up with something.”
Speculation has been rife Toovey could dump out-of-sorts winger Jorge Taufua, who has had back-to-back shockers under the high ball.
Toovey didn’t completely rule out the possibility of Taufua being outed from his wing for either Clint Gutherson or Cheyse Blair. If that does happen the tackle-busting Taufua could start from the bench and play a utility role given Manly’s injury-hit forward stocks.
Glenn Stewart (ankle), Jamie Buhrer (knee) and Anthony Watmough (suspension) are also sidelined.
“Jorge had a bit of an off week last week, but we finished equal first and Jorge has been there all year, so he has done a great job,” Toovey said.
“We have worked hard the last couple of weeks around that and I’m sure he will be OK.
“He will be there somewhere.”