Orford fearful of McKinnon return - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Orford fearful of McKinnon return

By Steve Jancetic 24/09/2008 04:38:53 PM Comments (0)

Manly skipper Matt Orford wasted little time in pinpointing New Zealand Warriors fullback Wade McKinnon as his side's biggest danger in Saturday night's NRL preliminary final.

And Orford knows he'll need to show similar accuracy with his boot if the Sea Eagles are to keep the livewire No.1 in check.

A three-game suspension for spitting at a touch judge has left McKinnon a frustrated spectator so far this finals series.

But coach Ivan Cleary showed no hesitation in rushing him straight back into the starting line-up at the expense of in-form fill-in Lance Hohaia.

Like Cleary, Orford thought McKinnon's selection was a no-brainer.

"You definitely had to pick him. He's a class player," Orford said.

"He showed coming off a knee reconstruction, he had a input straight away and he's a player who's probably the first picked in your team.

"He's always sniffing around, he knows where to be at the right time and he's very dangerous at the back there."

There's no need to delve too far into the statistical abyss to find the true worth of McKinnon's abilities.

Despite almost six months on the sideline as he rehabilitated his surgically repaired knee, McKinnon hardly missed a beat on his return in early August.

In his first game back, he ran for 185 metres against Brisbane, while the 148 metres he averaged in the four games he played was good for sixth best in the NRL over the regular season.

"He is a threat, that is for sure," Cleary said.

"He is the sort of guy who, similar to Brett Stewart at Manly, that they turn half chances into chances."

Centre Brent Tate claimed the addition of McKinnon would not only boost his side's kick-return, but also give the team an overall lift.

"He will bring a lot more confidence and hopefully three weeks' off hasn't affected him and I don't think it will," Tate said.

"We all saw the way he came back after that six-month layoff."

Add the power of man-mountain Manu Vatuvei on one wing and the speed an agility of Aiden Kirk on the other, and Orford knows his kicking game will have to be up the scratch on Saturday night.

But the Dally M medallist denied it would all come down to him.

"We need to have a good kick chase," he said.

"If our middle men do a great job and give us time we've got plenty of potions there to do the kicking - obviously Jamie Lyon's back now so he takes a bit of pressure of myself and we've got two nines that can kick also.

"We'll do a bit of work this week and come up with a plan."

The Sea Eagles went into lockdown on Wednesday afternoon after their holding their one and only open training session of the week at Narrabeen.

Centre Steve Bell trained with the side but remains in doubt with a calf injury.

Bell said he would give himself up until just before the game to prove his fitness.

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