Manly's mojo back as NRL momentum builds

Liam Howitt and Ben Horne, NZ Newswire August 11, 2012, 3:17 pm

Manly are expecting stars Steve Matai and Jason King back next week as their historic bid for back-to-back NRL premierships gains momentum.

No team has won consecutive title since the Super League era finished and the NRL was born in 1998, but with their troops coming back at just the right time, the Sea Eagles are warming to the task.

Friday night's comprehensive 23-6 defeat of fellow top-four team South Sydney in Gosford confirmed Manly's timely return to form and puts them in prime position to push for a third title in five years.

The Broncos won successive titles in 1992-93 and also won the Super League grand final in 1997 and the inaugural NRL premiership the following year.

But since then no dynasties have been created.

The major problem for Geoff Toovey's team all year has been the continual sidelining of star players due to injury and suspension.

But with just three rounds to go before the playoffs, Toovey is expecting to have close to his full-strength side available for next Sunday's clash with Newcastle at Brookvale Oval.

Matai (ankle) and co-captain King (sternum) were very close to playing against the Rabbitohs and are near certainties to face the Knights.

"I think Steve and Jason will be back next week. Steve was particularly close to playing this week, so we're pretty sure he will be back and we're hopeful that Jason will be too," said Toovey.

"We won't make that decision until early next week ... There's a few bumps and bruises (from Friday). I think Anthony Watmough has a cork or something but there's no major injuries."

South Sydney's top-two aspirations were chilled slightly by the loss - their first in seven weeks. The Rabbitohs have dropped down to third on the table after Melbourne defeated the Gold Coast on Friday.

If the top four standings stay as they are, Manly are on track for a first-week finals blockbuster against former coach Des Hasler and his high-flying Canterbury.

When the Sea Eagles lost to the Bulldogs just three weeks ago, their top eight hopes were looking a little shaky - but that's not the case anymore.

Jamie Lyon turned in an attacking masterclass on the right-side for Manly against Souths and five-eighth Kieran Foran is finally firing after a disrupted 2012.

However, neither rookie coach Toovey or his playing squad are getting carried away with talk of September success just yet.

"We just need to find that consistency and I think that we're getting there. Hopefully we will get there at the right time of year, which is semi-final time," Toovey said.

Clive Churchill medallist from the 2008 grand final, Brent Kite, agrees with his coach that the Sea Eagles still have plenty to prove.

"We're happy to win a few on the trot, but it's probably a pleasing thing that there's a bit of work to be done. We're certainly not there yet. It's a little bit early to start getting too confident," Kite said.

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