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Stewart warns Manly's best yet to come

David Beniuk 07/07/2011 07:33:07 PM Comments (0)

Rejuvenated Manly fullback Brett Stewart has warned his combination with the Sea Eagles' young halves is set to fully blossom in the run to the NRL finals.

Stewart has returned to vintage form since overcoming a seemingly endless run of injuries, recapturing his feared tryscoring ability with seven four-pointers in his nine games this year.

Despite his limited appearances, the former Test No.1 has been a major part of the Sea Eagles' unexpected rise to second place on the NRL ladder and firm position among the competition favourites.

Stewart says his form still has a way to go, as does the understanding with impressive halves Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans.

"They're playing very well and I think some people are forgetting that we've only played a handful of games together," Stewart told reporters on Thursday.

"Even myself and Kieran Foran haven't played a lot of footy, so the combinations are still growing and I think you'll probably see that at the back end of the season."

It's a scary thought for NRL rivals, particularly with teenage State of Origin representative Will Hopoate due back in the next few weeks.

After most of the past two years on the sidelines with knee problems, Stewart endured a tough start to 2011 with a hamstring issue which was eventually diagnosed as a nerve problem.

"I was right up until probably the Friday and then, when I'd do the field session with the boys, I'd seem to just do that sweep play in attack and it'd just sort of twinge again," he said.

"So it was very frustrating but there's not a lot I could do about it really."

The 26-year-old, who says his trademark speed has not been affected, poured cold water on NSW coach Ricky Stuart's enquiry about his availability when Origin I fullback Josh Dugan went down with injury.

Stewart says he made the right call.

"I wasn't ready," he said.

"Obviously, with my hamstring and my knee as well, I had a lot on my plate and also Anthony Minichiello was great in game two.

"I don't think any fullback would have pushed him out for game three so it was also good to see him back after a pretty lengthy injury a couple of years ago."

Manly coach Des Hasler is also hoping to see more from Stewart, describing his form as "getting there".

"It was always going to take a bit of time. He'd only played a half dozen games in the last two years," Hasler said.

"But even so, as he's climbing his way back in, he's still been prevalent in the side's progression.

"He's just one of those rare players in the game that can make points happen."

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