No need to preach resilience at Manly

Coach Des Hasler and his Sea Eagles are familiar with having their backs to the wall.
Coach Des Hasler and his Sea Eagles are familiar with having their backs to the wall.

Des Hasler has not had to educate Manly players on the club's long history of resilience, as their backs are against the wall again this week.

They already showed three weeks ago against Canberra that they know it well.

But Sunday's clash with St George Illawarra is arguably an even tougher task, now they are missing a starting fullback, five-eighth and the form front-rower of the competition.

While Tom Trbojevic is the big name, the suspended Addin Fonua-Blake isn't far behind him in the importance to the Sea Eagles.

The hulking front-rower had averaged 180 metres a game this year, more than any other front-rower in the competition, before his offensive spray at referee Grant Atkins.

When he is on song, Manly are generally flying - getting the likes of Daly Cherry-Evans on the front foot and giving the Sea Eagles the chance to attack.

And Manly need a win now as much as ever, having dropped their last two since Trbojevic and Dyaln Walker went down in the win over Raiders.

"Surprisingly when you are chatting to players during the week they have a great understanding on the club and its history," Hasler said.

"When you stop and think about it, it's a good thing.

"This group are a pretty resilient group. I think last week they did everything but get the result on the scoreboard which is the one that counts.

"They know tomorrow that two points is really important. It's a challenge I know they are ready for."

Martin Taupau will likely have to take a big onus up front without front-row partner Fonua-Blake, while Taniela Paseka has been named to start beside him.

In bad news for Manly fans, Hasler also confirmed Walker is still likely at least three weeks away, despite the No.6 recently indicating he was hopeful of facing Parramatta next week.

Meanwhile the Dragons also come into the match with changes, with Ben Hunt to start at hooker for the first time since joining the Saints in 2018.

He has however started there as recently as last year for Queensland in State of Origin, and played hooker while coming off the bench for the past month.

Cameron McInnes will play at lock, after switching from dummy-half to the back row in recent weeks.

The move was made after the Dragons have scored just two tries in the opening 20 minutes of games since the competition's restart in late May.

"I wanted to improve our starts to the game," coach Paul McGregor said.

"We thought the most important thing was that Ben was ready.

"Cam, the way he has expanded his game as a ball-playing No.13, a running No.13 and a good defensive No.13.

"So the time was right."

STATS THAT MATTER

* Manly are still yet to score a try from a kick this year.

* St George Illawarra miss the least tackles in the NRL.

* Matt Dufty has 11 try involvements for the Dragons, five more than the next best in Corey Norman.

Australian Associated Press