Matai to rip into Souths again
Manly hitman Steve Matai is set to wind up for another bellringer against South Sydney after recovering from his own concussion.
Matai produced the legal hit of the NRL season when the clubs last met as he flew out of the defensive line and floored forward Ben Lowe in round 16.
But the veteran centre has been forced to overcome a blow of his own after suffering severe whiplash in a fall against the Warriors a fortnight ago.
He was rested from last week’s surprise romp over leaders Brisbane but was named by coach Geoff Toovey for Friday night’s rematch against the defending premiers at Brookvale Oval.
“He’s still got to go through some protocol … if he passes that, we’re pretty confident he’ll be okay,” Toovey said on Thursday.
A Jamie Lyon-less Manly were sitting in last spot when the Rabbitohs triumphed 20-8 back in late June.
Since then, however, the Sea Eagles have won four of their past five, shooting back into finals reckoning and are now just two points outside the top eight.
Should results go their way, Toovey’s men could rise as high as seventh, entering the top half of the ladder for the first time this season.
“People seem to forget we were equal first last year after the end of the season, (and) missed out on the minor premiership by for and against points,” Toovey said.
“It’s been a tough year, which has been well-documented, but we just need to keep winning.
“And once we get into those semis, if we do, I’m sure there’ll be a few teams looking over their shoulders.”
Toovey has long been a critic of the current top-eight format, believing that it rewards teams that haven’t consistently won during the season.
But the departing coach sang a different tune ahead of the crucial clash against Brisbane.
“I’m glad how it is at the moment because we’re a chance of getting back in there,” he said.
“It’s great for the fans and the TV ratings, but I just believe that it does reward teams that aren’t consistent through the year.
“In saying that, the competition is so tight this year that anyone deserves to be there.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* Manly have lost their past three against the Rabbitohs, their worst losing streak against them since the mid-1980s. In the past three seasons Manly have lost five of seven against the Rabbitohs, equalling most losses against any opponent along with the Bulldogs.
* A loss in this match would see Manly bring up their 600th loss in what will be their 1509th match. Of all teams to have lost 600 matches, Manly will have taken the longest, eclipsing the record of South Sydney who took 1499 matches.
* Michael Maguire will coach his 100th NRL match after beginning with South Sydney in 2012. Win or lose, he will rank in the top 10 all-time for coaches for win percentage after 100 games.