Stewart to face twin pressures on return - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stewart to face twin pressures on return

By Melissa Woods 06/04/2009 06:50:31 PM Comments (0)

Manly are adamant Brett Stewart can handle the twin pressures of a court appearance and the Sea Eagles' winless season start when he makes his return to the NRL on Sunday.

Stewart will be named on Tuesday in Manly's side to play the Wests Tigers at Brookvale Oval, the same day he is scheduled to appear in Manly Local Court on a charge of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.

Both Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler and chief executive Grant Mayer said on the weekend Stewart was "right in the mind", and they expect the same to be the case after his appearance in court.

But Stewart will also need to contend with Manly's 0-4 start to their title defence, a statistic which leaves them one loss away from the worst ever season-opening start by reigning premiers.

Brisbane opened their 1999 season with five losses after winning the competition in 1998.

In light of the poor on-field performance, former Test fullback Stewart may also have to deal with Sea Eagles fans expecting him to salvage the club's season.

He was Manly's leading tryscorer last year, and has the phenomenal record of 48 tries in 52 games at Brookvale.

"He is a professional athlete, he's obviously had four weeks on the sideline, it's been exceptionally frustrating," Mayer told AAP on Monday.

"I'm talking in a pure football sense and I think he's ready to play so he'll be reviewed on an ongoing basis but at this stage there's no doubt that he's ready to play on Sunday."

Asked what would be expected by Hasler in Stewart's first game since the World Club Challenge victory more than a month ago, Mayer said: "To be the best he can be, that's all you ever ask any player, to be their best."

But the increasingly desperate Sea Eagles are hoping the 24-year-old will make a difference.

"Brett is a class player and when he's out of any team, whether it be a NSW team or the Sea Eagles, obviously it's a loss," Mayer said.

"We don't want to put too much pressure on Brett, he knows he's ready to come back and play on Sunday and he'll put his best foot forward."

Stewart was suspended by the NRL for four games after a boozy season launch which preceded the alleged sexual assault.

The NRL has made it clear the ban was for the alcohol issue and not the alleged assault, which the league says must be dealt with by the legal process.

Manly agreed to review Stewart's availability from round five if new information about the allegation came to light.

"From what we understand there'll be nothing coming out tomorrow nor at a later stage," Mayer said.

Mayer said he expected it to be a short court appearance on Tuesday for Stewart, with the player's lawyers reportedly seeking an adjournment until later this month.

Mayer said he was not expecting criticism of Stewart's return with the charge hanging over his head.

"He has been punished by the NRL for excessive drinking," he said.

"I would like to think that he has now served his four weeks, he'll be back there on Sunday and there'll be nobody that will be expecting anything more from him."

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