Canberra coach Ricky Stuart is crossing his fingers Jamie Lyon’s switch to five-eighth doesn’t provide the impetus Manly needs to turn its NRL season around.
The Sea Eagles skipper is set to start at No.6 when the sides meet at GIO Stadium on Friday night, with Dylan Walker returning to the centres.
Lyon moved back into the halves for part of their last-start loss to Cronulla, their third defeat in a row before a bye in round 12.
“It’ll probably be the best combination for the team,” Stuart said on Thursday.
“I know Dylan Walker is a class player and class centre, so that’s going to be a plus for them – it’s probably his best position.
“Jamie Lyon’s (also) a class player. He’s got a lot of experience, he’s handled five-eighth extremely at representative level as well as club level, so it won’t be a new job for Jamie.”
Lyon has a habit of scoring tries when playing the Raiders, crossing seven times in his past five games against them – including a double in each of his past two trips to Canberra.
Stuart knows the Sea Eagles won’t be easy beats, especially with centre Steve Matai a chance to return from a neck injury and Queensland prop Nate Myles likely to back up from State of Origin.
“Manly are going to be dangerous,” he said.
“They’ll come down here very fresh and full of energy, because they have had that break and we’ve had a very short turnaround.”
In the hope of avoiding a repeat of their 36-6 loss to Parramatta after a similarly short turnaround in April, Stuart has also shuffled his pack.
Young forwards Joseph Tapine and Luke Bateman have been elevated to the starting side, with front-rower Paul Vaughan benched and prop Jeff Lima dropped.
Lock Shaun Fensom has been rested, while Brenko Lee comes in for winger Edrick Lee (hamstring).
Doubt remains as to whether Stuart will play two of his biggest assets, however, with the club still waiting on the NRL to confirm the registration of Junior Paulo’s contract.
Paulo has been named on an extended bench and has trained with the Raiders this week after being granted an early release by Parramatta.
Stuart will wait until match day to make a call on Josh Papalii, who had a light jog on Thursday just hours after driving back from Sydney following Queensland’s Origin I win.
Sia Soliola will step in if he is rested.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Manly have won their past five matches against Canberra, four of them by 13 points or more
* The Sea Eagles have been more successful on the road than at home this season, winning three from four away and just one from six at Brookvale
* Canberra are chasing their third win a row. They haven’t win three games straight since rounds 7-9 last year.