Manly v St George Illawarra preview

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Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v St George Illawarra Dragons Friday 8:05pm at Cbus Super Stadium

High flying Sea Eagles host under fire Dragons as hub life takes hold.

Sitting 6th and 7th on the competition ladder with just two points separating them, this bottom eight match-up should have all the makings of a quality contest as clubs come out of the Origin period and hit the home straight in a race for finals positions.

Of course, the world is a little upside down right now and both teams will be barely adjusting to life in their South East Queensland hubs. The under-strength Dragons will be hitting the park for the first time since their infamous ‘Weekend at Vaughnies' and both sides will be sweating on their respective stars backing up from Origin on Wednesday night.

Manly Coach Des Hasler named both his Origin guns in Tom Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans on Tuesday's team sheet but whether they actually line-up will remain a mystery until game day with the popular theory being Tommy Turbo will again be rested as was the case following game one.

The difference now is the top 4 is slipping out of the Sea Eagles grasp and after losing to the Raiders without their stars last week, another loss here would almost bring down the curtain on getting two bites at the cherry come September.

The only other change for Hasler's men sees impressive rookie Josh Schuster named to make his return from a calf injury that's kept him on the sidelines since round 11. His inclusion shifts mid-season recruit Karl Lawton back to the interchange.

Dragons Coach Anthony Griffin has elected for Matt Dufty, Daniel Alvaro, Tyrell Fuimaono and Kaide Ellis to be the first players to serve one week suspensions following their Covid breaches.

Rookie fullback Tyrell Sloan will start his second game at the back, whilst Jack De Belin moves into the front-row with Jackson Ford at Lock. Poasa Faamausili comes onto the interchange where he will be joined by Jamayne Taunoa-Brown who has signed with the club on a short term loan deal.  

Last meeting: Round 3 2021 - Dragons 38 Sea Eagles 12

Who to watch: Only expected to be a short term injury, boom back-rower Josh Schuster ended up missing six rounds of footy but is raring to go now and will be a welcome relief for the Sea Eagles, especially if they do decide to rest their stars. At an imposing 185cm and 106kg, Schuster is a strong presence on Manly's left edge but it's not just his size and strength that pose a threat. Blessed with an abundance of skill from his days coming through the grades as a five-eighth, the rookie of the year contender has great footwork and a classy set of hands which keeps defenders guessing. 

After a classy debut against the Raiders three weeks ago, Tyrell Sloan will again get the chance to impress as he stakes his claim for the number one jersey to be vacated permanently by Dufty at season's end. With plenty or raps on his name coming into his debut, the 19-year-old Dapto junior didn't disappoint and came up with a crucial play in a tight win. Having the audacity to chip and chase on debut, Sloan used his speed to position himself in support to score a scintillating try.

The favourite: The Sea Eagles are red hot favourites with the Dragons paying more than $5 to cause an upset.

My tip: Tough to predict until we know if both Trbojevic and Cherry-Evans back up - they were pretty ordinary last week without them. With their skipper and the world's form player in the squad, the Sea Eagles have been in irresistible form and prior to last week's loss without them had piled on half centuries in three straight contests. Could be a tight one in their absence but otherwise look for another polished Sea Eagles victory. Manly by 18.

5. Reuben Garrick 2. Jason Saab 3. Brad Parker 4. Morgan Harper 18. Moses Suli 6. Kieran Foran 12. Josh Schuster 8. Taniela Paseka 9. Lachlan Croker 10. Martin Taupau 11. Haumole Olakau'atu 15. Karl Lawton 13. Sean Keppie 14. Dylan Walker 16. Kurt De Luis 17. Toafofoa Sipley 21. Cade Cust 19. Tevita Funa

1. Tyrell Sloan 2. Cody Ramsey 3. Jack Bird 4. Brayden Wiliame 5. Gerard Beale 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. Blake Lawrie 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Jack de Belin 11. Josh Kerr 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jackson Ford 14. Poasa Faamausili 15. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 16. Josh Mcguire 17. Billy Burns 18. Adam Clune

Referees: Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Peter Gough, Belinda Sharpe; Video Referees: Henry Perenara;

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