Raring to go: Steve Matai. Photo: Brendan EspositoManly duo Steve Matai and Anthony Watmough have been cleared to play for the Sea Eagles, while South Sydney are sweating on the fitness of Sam Burgess to allow their big man to return from a shoulder injury.
Matai (concussion) and Watmough (knee) did not complete their last-start win against Brisbane, and Watmough feared an extended stint on the sidelines. However, Manly coach Geoff Toovey said both would be right to play South Sydney on Friday night after completing the team’s final training session on Thursday.
Winger Jorge Taufua continues to battle an ankle injury and remains in doubt despite being named to play. If Taufua fails to recover, Cheyse Blair would again come onto the wing for his third successive appearance.
Toovey remained hopeful Glenn Stewart would play again for Manly as he battles a long-term ankle injury. ‘‘He’s a few weeks away,” he said. “He had a setback a few weeks back, but other than that he’s travelling fine and we’re hopeful he’ll be back before semi-finals,’’
Captain Jamie Lyon said Stewart was desperate to return to the field.
“I hope he can get back out there,” Lyon said. “He’s done some great things for the club and I would love to do it with him again. It’s an injury that’s hard to get on top of. He might have tried to come back a bit too hard too early.”
While Manly are expected to be boosted by their representative players, South Sydney are expected to battle on without Burgess. He remains an outside chance to make his return from a shoulder injury but is no certainty having missed South Sydney’s last-start win against Newcastle on Sunday.
Either brother Luke or Joe Picker would replace Burgess in the squad.
Meanwhile, South Sydney were given a boost heading into the clash at the SCG after representative back-rower Chris McQueen re-signed until the end of 2016. McQueen, 27, had sought a contract upgrade after signing his last one before he made his Queensland debut last year.
The Cowboys were interested in luring McQueen away from Sydney. His signing is an important one with Sam Burgess and Ben Te’o leaving the club at the end of this year.
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