Emotions will be running high at Brookvale Oval on Friday when resurgent Manly host South Sydney as Rabbitohs back-rower Glenn Stewart returns to his old homeground with a chance of ending the Sea Eagles’ finals hopes.
In a promoter’s dream, much of the build-up is sure to centre around Stewart and Manly coach Geoff Toovey.
Manly chairman Scott Penn recently revealed the decision to axe long-time Sea Eagle Stewart played a part in the decision to sack Toovey last week.
Stewart’s dumping caused a major disruption at the Sea Eagles, culminating with him joining Souths and fellow Sea Eagles stalwart Anthony Watmough signing with Parramatta.
The Sea Eagles have bounced back to form in spectacular fashion with Toovey’s side wiping the floor with competition leaders Brisbane 44-14 on Saturday night in Gosford just four days after the Manly coach was told his services were no longer required.
The win over the Broncos gave the Sea Eagles two straight victories after beating the Warriors and has them two points outside the top eight, but one slip and it could all be over for Manly.
Following Souths, Manly face Canberra, Parramatta, the Sydney Roosters and Cronulla.
“We’re still in there with a chance, we know that and all we can do is turn up every week and put a performance in and try and win the match. If we do it five more times, we’re a chance,” Toovey said.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett has no doubts the Sea Eagles will make life difficult for their opponents in the run to the finals.
“They’ve always had the quality players and they’ve done a lot of damage to themselves this season with what’s happened internally with their organisation,” Bennett said.
“I think we all realise how well they can play. They’ve got a very good backline and their forwards are doing a good job.”
Toovey expects fullback Brett Stewart to be right for the clash against Souths after he was forced off the field early against the Broncos.
“He just had a couple of bad corks, with a bit of treatment, I’m sure he’ll be right for next week,” Toovey said.