NRL leader Manly could be further boosted by the long-awaited return of Steve Menzies for Friday's clash with Penrith. The representative back rower has missed almost all of the Sea Eagles' rise after suffering an abdominal strain in their opening round win over Canberra. But Manly coach Des Hasler said the 14-season, 309-game veteran was close to a return and could be a late inclusion in the squad to face the Panthers at CUA Stadium, although he won't be taking any chances. "He's starting to come into the picture," Hasler said. "The medical side and rehab are quite pleased with his progress and the way the side is going at the moment is a bit of a blessing because we don't have to rush him. "I'll talk to the rehab people about (playing this week) and we'll decide later in the week." Hasler said Menzies, who needs just seven tries to overtake Andrew Ettingshausen (165) for second on the all-time try scorers' list behind Ken Irvine (159), was desperate to return to action. "He's missed half a season so he really wants to get back on the field," Hasler said. "But he's been very professional and he's been part of what we've been doing. "Just having him around the place, with his experience, knowledge and the way he handles himself has been very beneficial." Hasler today also called on New South Wales State of Origin selectors to take note of back rower Anthony Watmough's outstanding form ahead of Origin II in Sydney. With speculation that the Blues may ring the changes, Hasler said Watmough's name should be included among potential replacements such as the Sharks' Greg Bird and Paul Gallen and Wests Tigers' Robbie Farah. "Obviously you look at form of some of the back rowers from the Sharks and I think Anthony Watmough deserves to be in that company with his form over the last two weeks," Hasler said. "I think (Matt) Orford hasn't done any harm putting his hand up too for Origin, maybe (game) number two or number three." Despite moving to the outright competition lead with its 13-12 win over competition favourites Melbourne on Saturday, Hasler said the Sea Eagles were a long way off being considered the league's new "benchmark" side. "I think we've still got a lot of improvement in us and I still think that title obviously belongs to the Melbourne side," Hasler said. "And the premiers from last year (Brisbane) - they're starting to show some form, anyone who can score 71 points in any game of football . . . and then there's the Tigers too. "I think we're competing but it's only round eleven and there's still two thirds of an Origin series to get through."