Manly coach Geoff Toovey is weighing up the risk and reward of playing injured stars Matt Ballin and Jason King in Friday's crucial clash against Brisbane at Brookvale Oval.
The Sea Eagles could secure a top-four spot with a win over the struggling Broncos if North Queensland fall to Newcastle on Saturday night.
But while he understands the importance of finishing inside the top four under the NRL's new finals format, Toovey knows he needs his big guns on deck in September.
The defending premiers are fourth on 32 points, two clear of the Cowboys who have a superior for-and-against.
"It's an incredibly tight race for positions in that top eight so it's important (to win)," Toovey said on Wednesday.
"It's not the be-all-and-end-all but it'd be great to finish in that top four and to do that and take out all those other sides we need to win both games."
Pressed on the availability of Ballin (calf), King (shoulder) and Jamie Buhrer (concussion), Toovey revealed: "We've got a few injury clouds over a couple of players and obviously we've lost Wolfy (David Williams) for the year (with a knee injury) which is devastating for him.
"Jamie (Buhrer) we think will be OK and we're hoping Matty Ballin will be OK also.
"Probably the most doubt is over Jason King, we're going to give him until the end of the week and hopefully he'll be OK but we won't risk him if there's any doubt around him."
Ballin, who left the field after 20 minutes against Newcastle, had a light run on Wednesday but faces a final fitness test on Thursday.
"It's getting there. I had a little run today and we'll probably wait until tomorrow to decide whether I'll be right for the game," Ballin said.
"I haven't really run flat out so tomorrow I'll run flat out and if I'm not right I won't play but if it feels good I will."
Buhrer will undergo a cognitive skills test on Thursday to determine whether he'll line up against the Broncos.
"I'm all right, I was a bit dusty the last few days but the headaches are gone now so I'll take it easy and do a bit of light work today and should be OK for Friday," Buhrer said.
The Sea Eagles were installed as premiership favourites following the first-half demolition of Newcastle last Sunday, but Toovey cheekily stole former boss Des Hasler's trademark line.
"We're under the radar," he quipped.
"We've played some good footy at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year, we were a bit lost in the middle but I think we're coming good at the right time of year."
The rookie coach is expecting a stern test from a Broncos side that have lost their past five matches.
"They've got quality players and all you need is a bit of luck and the footy Gods to smile on you, as they did with us against the Warriors when we had a bit of luck and things have picked up since then," Toovey said.
"They're a real quality side and I tipped them at the start of the year to be the real danger side of the competition."