If there was a time for Manly halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran to stand up, now is it.
Whether he admits it or not, Cherry-Evans has a point to prove going into Sunday’s NRL match against Cronulla at Brookvale Oval after being dropped by Queensland.
Meanwhile, Foran has had a weight lifted from his shoulders – after months of wrangling, he finally sorted his future and signed a four-year contract with Parramatta on Friday.
Both have every reason to put in five-star performances against the resurgent Sharks and the Sea Eagles are in desperate need of their brilliance.
Sitting in last spot, their season is all but gone and they will need to win eight of their 10 remaining matches to have any hope of sneaking into the eight.
And even that result would offer no guarantees considering they have the worst for-and-against in the competition of -94.
Geoff Toovey’s side have lost five games by less than 10 points this year and have been left to lament the fact that had they won them, they would be in the top eight.
“The competition is so tight, we’ve lost a couple of games by very close margins,” Toovey said.
“If we had won those games we’d be in the top eight. We need to start winning those games, there’s no doubt there.”
While they have had their injury problems to senior players and in the front row, they remain anchored to the bottom of the table and must turn it around starting with the Sharks at home.
Cronulla have been one of the competition’s best performing teams over the past two months, shrugging off their winless opening month to sit on the edge of the eight.
However, questions remain about their bona fides.
They are coming off a morale-boosting come-from-behind win over North Queensland but Shane Flanagan’s side have a horrible record at Brookvale Oval, winning just six of their 39 matches at Manly’s home ground, according to Fox Sports Stats.
They must also get the job done without NSW State of Origin captain Paul Gallen and suspended hooker Michael Ennis.
Flanagan described Ennis as one of the side’s most influential players and a big reason for their three-game winning streak.
“(Ennis) has probably been our form player over the last month and it’s no surprise we’ve been winning football games because he’s been a key part of it,” Flanagan said.
“Pat Politoni will come in there and we’ve got all the confidence in Patty. He played last year and showed what he’s got so it’s a real good opportunity for that. That’s what squads are about – good squads cover when good players are out.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* Manly have won 70 per cent of their matches with the Sharks including 10 of their past 11 encounters.
* Manly have just four wins this season and are on track to record less than 10 wins for the first time since 2004.
* If the competition had started at Round 5, Cronulla would be third behind the Cowboys and Broncos, with seven wins from 10 games.