FIRE DOUSED | After returning to finals action in 2015, the St George-Illawarra Dragons struggled un...
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Manly will leave five injured first grade stars at home for Sunday's trip to Auckland to play the New Zealand Warriors, but will welcome back four regulars for the important clash.
NSW State of Origin pair Brent Kite (back) and Brett Stewart (knee), Queensland's Steve Bell (rib cartilage) and workaholic backrowers Glenn Stewart (sternum) and Luke Williamson (shoulder) have been ruled out of the clash and will not travel to Auckland because of niggling injuries.
But the Sea Eagles will welcome back halfback and captain Matt Orford (thigh), Kiwi Test centre Steve Matai (neck), utility Travis Burns (back) and NSW City prop Jason King (knee) to the side. Matai, Burns and King are back after extended spells on the sideline and are massive boosts to Manly's depth just two weeks out from the finals.
Betting was suspended for the clash yesterday after a flurry of bets were placed on the fifth-placed Warriors to beat the second-placed Eagles prompting speculation coach Des Hasler would rest several Manly stars.
Meanwhile, Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens has slammed suggestions Benji Marshall is a defensive liability and says the Kiwi star will prove detractors wrong in the match against South Sydney this Sunday.
Marshall has been heavily targeted in his four games since returning from his latest shoulder surgery with his move to defend on the right wing drawing attention from the opposition.
But Sheens says Marshall will remain defending on the flanks for at least 12 months and is confident the halfback can handle any extra attention sent his way. Sheens says all wingers are targeted in defence with high kicking and believes most of the tries Marshall has conceded from kicks could not have been prevented by any other player.
Sunday's game at Leichhardt Oval is officially sold out.