Wounded stars named as favourites luxuriate
WHILE first-week finals winners the Rabbitohs and Roosters savour the freshness of a weekend off, respective opponents the Sea Eagles and Knights have named walking wounded for this weekend's NRL grand final qualifiers.
Manly skipper Jamie Lyon, who feared he had broken his leg against the Sharks last Friday night, has declared himself a certain starter against the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium.
He has been named alongside Anthony Watmough (knee), Brent Kite (wrist), Brett Stewart (hamstring) and Steve Matai (shoulder), all of whom are carrying injuries.
"I copped a whack on the lower leg and there's a bit of bruising, but the result has been good," said Lyon.
"At the start I thought it was broken, such was the pain, and I probably carried on a bit out there. It feels good now and I'll be out there on Friday night."
And Newcastle halfback Tyrone Roberts, thought to have suffered a serious knee injury in the dying minutes of last weekend's two-point win over premiers Melbourne, has been included in the line-up for Saturday night's clash with the Roosters.
Roberts initially writhed in agony after hyper-extending his right knee three minutes from the end of the epic against the Storm, but he played on and was named man of the match.
Subsequent scans revealed no serious damage and he is expected to play.
In the only change to the Newcastle line-up, Origin winger James McManus returns after missing last week with an ankle injury. He replaces Kevin Naiqama.
The Rabbitohs, still basking in their 20-10 week one finals win over the Storm, have selected an unchanged line-up. Ben Lowe, Luke Keary and Matt King are on an extended bench, but are unlikely to be required.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is back in the only change to the Roosters from their first-up finals win.
The big Kiwi prop missed the match through suspension, meaning he has not played for three weeks.
Luke O'Donnell goes back to a six-man the bench, joining Daniel Mortimer, Mitch Aubusson, Isaac Liu, Dylan Nap and Martin Kennedy.
Despite speculation he may play, injured lock Boyd Cordner has not been named.
But the most intense interest in the lead-up to the penultimate weekend of the NRL premiership is on Sea Eagles fullback Brett Stewart, who had a light run at training yesterday.
The veteran No.1 has not played since limping off late in the round 25 clash with the Storm.
But such in his value to the team that Manly coach Geoff Toovey said he would again be given until game day to prove his fitness.
"But even though he is really eager to play, if he's not right he's not right," he said.
"The bloke who has filled in for him for the past couple of weeks, Peta Hiku, has done a great job but Brett is a quality player and obviously we all hope he will be fit."