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Manly's Bell happy to sidestep limelight



Manly's Bell happy to sidestep limelight

With all eyes on Matt Orford's Manly debut, fellow Sea Eagles recruit Steve Bell is hoping to slip under the radar at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night.

The two former Melbourne mainstays will play their first NRL regular season match in the maroon and white against an understrength Canberra side.

Bell knows the performance of high-profile buy Orford will be closely monitored by the Sea Eagles faithful, but that hasn't calmed the 29-year-old's nerves heading into the match.

"There's a little bit of that I guess (more pressure on Orford), but it means a lot for me to play for Manly," Bell said.

"They've been really good to me and I want to repay them now, which is why I've put a bit of pressure on myself to perform tomorrow night."

The Sea Eagles went after Bell and Orford in a bid to bolster a backline which lacked firepower for much of last season. With the likes of representative players Steve Menzies, Brent Kite, Jason King, Anthony Watmough and skipper Ben Kennedy in the forward pack, Manly knew it possessed the necessary muscle to compete up the middle with any side in the competition, and now the backline looks more capable of capitalising on the platform they build.

With five years playing together at the Storm under their belt, Bell is hoping his familiarity with the former City halfback's style of play pays dividends tomorrow night.

"It's definitely a help, you sort of know what he's on about and where he's going," Bell said.

"We're getting there (with our combinations), each week there's been a little bit of improvement."

The Raiders too could take a little time to get into gear, with coach Matt Elliott naming three debutants in his opening round outfit.

Winger Adrian Purtell, prop Willie Raston and second rower Ben Jones will make their first appearances in the top grade after serving long apprenticeships in the Raiders' lower grades.

Outside backs Craig Frawley (ankle) and Nathan Smith, props Michael Weyman (ankle) and Dane Tilse (chest) and backrowers Alan Rothery (shoulder) and Kris Kahler (shoulder) are all on the injured list, leaving Elliott with little alternative but to blood the newcomers.

But Elliott said it was the pre-season form of the trio which forced his hand, dismissing claims the Raiders would go into the match under-par.

"At this level it's not about being young or old it's about picking the players that are playing the best," Elliott said.

"That's why we trial, we trial to have a look at the structures of play that we're looking to utilise and to see who's playing the best footy.

"At the moment we have a lot of guys who are pushing for first grade selection, and these guys have played the best footy so far."

The Raiders enter the match having lost their last three matches between the two sides.

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2020 Ladder

Team P W D L PD Pts
1 Panthers 20 18 1 1 299 37
2 Storm 20 16 0 4 258 32
3 Eels 20 15 0 5 104 30
4 Roosters 20 14 0 6 230 28
5 Raiders 20 14 0 6 128 28
6 Rabbitohs 20 12 0 8 169 24
7 Knights 20 11 1 8 47 23
8 Sharks 20 10 0 10 0 20
9 Titans 20 9 0 11 -117 18
10 Warriors 20 8 0 12 -115 16
11 Tigers 20 7 0 13 -65 14
12 Dragons 20 7 0 13 -74 14
13 Sea Eagles 20 7 0 13 -134 14
14 Cowboys 20 5 0 15 -152 10
15 Bulldogs 20 3 0 17 -222 6
16 Broncos 20 3 0 17 -356 6
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