Knives out for Manly in last NRL round September 1, 2005 - 5:49PM The knives are out for Manly - yet again. The team which once earned the ire of rivals with its silvertail tag is feeling the heat as it lines up for its "biggest game in seven years", a must-win NRL clash at Canberra on Saturday night. If Manly wins its final regular season game, it locks up the eighth and last finals berth. If the Sea Eagles lose for the ninth time in 10 games, eighth spot will be decided on Sunday when Wests Tigers host ninth-placed Penrith and 10th-placed Roosters take on the Bulldogs. Not that Manly skipper Michael Monaghan had to be reminded. Monaghan said the besieged team knew rival clubs would be praying for the Sea Eagles to fall over to keep the finals race alive. Indeed rivals have made no secret of their desire to see Manly become only the third team since the top eight format began to miss the finals after leading the NRL table. "Everyone loves to hate Manly, it's been a bit of a tradition," Canberra forward Ian Hindmarsh said. Penrith and ex-Test prop Joel Clinton added: "I want so badly for them to lose, that would be great." And legendary Penrith halfback Greg Alexander has already dismissed Manly's finals chances. "If Roosters or Panthers come into the semis they will be more trouble than what Manly can offer," he said. "They've lost eight out of nine, that's no momentum coming into the semis." But Monaghan backed the Sea Eagles to ignore the jibes and rise to the occasion on Saturday night. "This week is a big game for the club, our biggest game in seven years - we don't need any extra motivation," Monaghan said of the criticism. "We are still playing for a semi-final spot regardless of what people think. "We are on the verge of doing something that hasn't been done here for a while and it is something we should be proud of. "I don't think many people tipped us to play finals footy at the start of the year. "While people have written us off, if we get through this weekend we can do something in the finals." Manly will enter a small but undesirable club if it misses the finals. The Sea Eagles - outright No.1 from round three to seven - will become only the third team to miss the finals in top eight history after leading the competition. Excluding the Bulldogs of 2002 which was deducted 37 points for salary cap rorting, others to have missed the finals after leading are Canberra (2005, led from round four to six) and North Queensland (1998, rounds one to two). "We've had plenty of opportunities in the last month or so to snap up the eighth spot, we've certainly let ourselves down," Monaghan said. "But at the end of the day we've got an opportunity to be the first Manly team in eight seasons to make the semi-finals." Of criticism that Manly's late slump didn't auger well for its finals chances, Monaghan said: "I look at it the other way. "We have performed our best football all year against teams on top of the table. "We have struggled against sides on the edge of the eight or outside of it. "But we know it will take just one good performance and you are in the mix." Monaghan said Manly had found "positives" out of its heartbreaking 22-20 last round loss to New Zealand Warriors. "We were talking about the defensive work in that game which was probably the best we have done in a while," he said.