Stewart back as Manly eye finals spot - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stewart back as Manly eye finals spot

By Todd Balym 29/08/2009 04:03:21 PM Comments (0)

It is a game which can seal Manly's place in the NRL finals, but it will be the comeback of fullback Brett Stewart that will decide if the Sea Eagles can fly high again this season.

The reigning premiers host bottom feeders Cronulla at Brookvale Oval on Sunday knowing a victory would secure their place in this year's finals.

However, Stewart's return from a knee ligament injury, to play his first game in 18 weeks, will be the main attraction.

The prolific tryscorer is Manly's greatest weapon heading into the finals and all eyes will be out to see if he can get back to his attacking best in time to spark an attack which has been up and down all season.

Coach Des Hasler says the main objective for Stewart over the next fortnight of the regular season is to get back into his groove before the finals.

For the rest of the team, they just have to keep winning to secure a place in the top eight and possibly finish as high as fourth.

"Brett will use these two games to get that bit of match fitness," said Hasler.

"We are thereabouts (to defend our title), we just have to not get too far ahead of ourselves.

"It is still really tight so we just need to keep winning. That is all we can do.

"It's just about getting in there (finals) now and once the finals roll around it's a different competition again, it's as simple as that."

Despite Cronulla sitting a lowly 15th on the NRL table, Hasler insists Sunday's clash will be a thorough workout for his men.

Cronulla pushed the Titans all the way in their loss at the Gold Coast last Sunday and were also a thorn in the side of Melbourne a few weeks earlier only to be beaten in the final 20 minutes.

Hasler says his side know they won't get an easy win against the Sharks and wants them to take the opportunity to practice grinding out a game the way they'll have to if they want success in the finals.

"It won't be easy, the Sharks have been losing games but they've been turning up with a really competitive attitude and we are very mindful of that," he said.

"Don't forget it was 6-all after nearly 40 minutes on the weekend against the Titans ... they play very committed footy.

"They make you earn anything every minute you play so we certainly respect that about the Sharks.

"For us it's more about us than anything else at this stage. We just need to be on our game."

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