Manly just warming up, warns skipper - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly just warming up, warns skipper

By Steve Jancetic 23/07/2009 07:46:41 PM Comments (0)

They've been the hottest team in the NRL over the past two months, but in a warning to rivals, Manly skipper Matt Orford claims the reigning premiers are just warming up.

Seven wins from their past nine matches have catapulted the Sea Eagles into the top eight, their run over the same period matched only by ladder-leaders St George Illawarra.

They now head to Gosford's Bluetongue Stadium to tackle Newcastle on Friday night, their cause set to be helped with news Knights skipper Kurt Gidley is in extreme doubt due to a rib cartilage injury.

Victory would lift the Sea Eagles level with the Knights on 24 competition points, with Orford eyeing a big run home as they make a late push for a top four finish.

"We've won seven from our last nine so we're building nicely, but we've still got a fair bit to improve," Orford said.

"I honestly think we haven't played our best football to date.

"I think the Bulldogs game (a 19-12 win to Manly in round 17) was probably a sign of the kind of football we played all last year consistently and we just haven't done that yet.

"Until we get all our guys back on board and get a consistent line-up week-in, week-out, I don't think you'll see a full 80 minutes of the old Manly.

"I don't think we're back as yet and I don't think we've started our run."

With Jarrod Mullen already out with a knee injury, the last thing the Knights need is to lose Gidley.

The Knights No.1 bravely battled through his rib injury to lead NSW to victory in Origin III last week, but Newcastle coach Brian Smith on Thursday sounded like a man preparing to be without his workaholic fullback.

"He's in extreme doubt - he's going to make a decision tomorrow but it's most unlikely that he'll play," said Smith, who has put Wests Tigers recruit Shannon McDonnell on standby.

"Today was an optional session for all of our players and he was one of about half a dozen that didn't train."

Manly five-eighth Chris Bailey returns from injury to play against his former club, with Jamie Lyon back in the centres alongside Ben Farrar.

Bailey said he had talked to a few of the Knights players following Smith's decision to walk out on the final year of his contract to join the Sydney Roosters in 2010, but denied the upheaval would affect his old club.

"They'll probably want to send him (Smith) out on a high note, he's probably got a lot of those blokes there and they've been performing pretty well under him," Bailey said.

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