Manly’s golden age appears to be over as they stare down the barrel of their worst NRL losing streak in over a decade against Gold Coast on Monday night.
After five straight losses, Trent Barrett’s side’s finals chances are as good as dead but further embarrassment could be inflicted against the Titans at CBus Super Stadium.
The Sea Eagles have not lost six straight since 2004, a year that marked a turning point in their history.
After their 2004 campaign, in which they finished 14th, they went on to make 10 straight finals appearances, a streak which was ended last year.
Of their 2008 grand final side, only Steve Matai, Brett Stewart and Jamie Lyon are still at the club.
Matai’s future is in doubt after undergoing season-ending neck surgery and Lyon will hang up his boots at the end of the year.
While Stewart, sixth on the NRL all-time try scorers list, is in the longest scoring drought of his career, having gone eight games without a four-pointer and questions are being asked about how long the 31-year-old will continue.
With the side missing Matai, Daly Cherry-Evans (ankle), Dylan Walker (Origin), Nate Myles (knee) and Brenton Lawrence (pec) against the Titans, Lyon will make a timely return to form a makeshift halves partnership with Apisai Koroisau.
“You’ve got to give every side respect in this competition,” Gold Coast coach Neil Henry said.
“Jamie Lyon being back in the side, that makes a big difference, (Martin) Taupau’s back and he’s a powerful runner as well.
“They’ll be better than they were last week.
“But they’re still down a few guys, Cherry-Evans is still out, Nate Myles is out.
“But we need to control the ball or else it’s going to be a tough night.”
After their embarrassing fadeout against Penrith last week, the Sea Eagles are 14th while the Titans are earning respect after some gutsy performance which have put them in the top eight frame.
After missing out on Cherry-Evans’ signature last year, they were expected to struggle but have flourished under boom youngster Ashley Taylor.
The 21-year-old former Brisbane Bronco has been arguably the best youngster in the competition this year and although he was restricted to light duties this week, he took part in Sunday’s captain’s run and will take on Manly.
Henry also said Konrad Hurrell, who made his club debut against Parramatta last weekend, would sit out Monday’s game due to a calf strain.
While for the Sea Eagles, young prop Liam Knight has been handed his debut.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Manly has won five of their past seven, including the last three straight, matches against Gold Coast.
* The Titans have only led going into the second half on three occasions this season, converting all three into wins.
* Three of Manly’s last five losses have been by 12 points or more.
Source: Fox Sports Stats