Manly must 'fire soon or lose title' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly must 'fire soon or lose title'

By Todd Balym 30/04/2009 07:42:13 PM Comments (0)

Manly hooker Matt Ballin admits the Sea Eagles' premiership defence is getting dangerously close to failing unless they can snap out of their early-season rut.

The Sea Eagles are 2-5 after the first seven weeks of the competition with games against Melbourne at Brookvale Oval on Friday and ladder leaders Brisbane next week.

Manly face a real danger of being 2-7 before the Origin season even starts - at which point it could be goodbye to their title defence.

"It's still early stages but it's never nice losing five games this early," said Ballin.

"We're not playing our best footy but we're not far away.

"There's good signs but we have to start improving and we better make it soon otherwise we will be too far behind.

"Any win at the moment will be good to build our confidence and the only way we can do that is just take our opportunities."

Manly are not alone in their predicament as while this weekend is all about the Test and NSW City-Country jerseys at stake, for the NRL clubs it's the last chance to bank crucial competition points before the representative season takes away their star players.

And with half of the NRL clubs facing a bye next round, this weekend is virtually a double point round for club's seeking a "four-point win".

"I think it is vital for all clubs I suppose to get a roll on coming into the rep season," said Penrith utility Luke Lewis, his Panthers one of the eight sides having a rest next weekend.

"There's going to be a lot of players from a lot of different teams out and most of the time it's your strike players.

"It is key for us and every other side I suppose to get that roll on now."

A glance at last year's NRL table shows that of the top eight teams prior to the first representative game of the season - five went on to reach the finals.

The three teams to come from behind - Canberra, St George Illawarra and the Warriors - went on blistering winning runs to force their way into the playoffs.

Canberra won seven of their last nine games, the Dragons had a seven-match streak in the rep season while the Warriors won eight of their last 10 matches to storm home into eighth place.

Sea Eagles prop Jason King says it's not too late for Manly to resurrect their year and push back into the top half of the ladder before the midpoint of the season.

"We need to get a few wins just so we've got something to build on really," he said.

"Every club wants to get off to a good start, we didn't really do that this year but we've got to change that around and it's not too late now.

"We can string some wins together and really make an impact in the first half of the year.

"We need to concentrate on these next couple of games and get some momentum going through the rep season."

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