Plugging the drain


First Grader
Manly Daily, Plugging the drain
MANLY will use the blueprint from this month's backs-to-the-wall win over Wests Tigers as the formula to get through a potentially damaging State of Origin period.

For the first time in a decade the Sea Eagles are facing a heavier than usual player drain over the next eight weeks.

Star back-rowers Anthony Watmough and Ben Kennedy are set to play all three Origin games unless NSW fail dramatically.

The experienced Steve Menzies, named the Blues' 18th man for Origin I next Wednesday, is next cab off the rank in the back-row while prop Brent Kite can be considered unlucky not to have made the final 17 for Brisbane.

Watmough and Kennedy will sit out Friday night's match against Parramatta at Parramatta Stadium, breaking up Manly's strength at the rear of the scrum.

The new back-row is Glenn Stewart, Luke Williamson and Menzies.

But Kennedy and captain Michael Monaghan both point to the 34-26 round nine win over the Tigers as evidence Manly can survive the next two months unscathed.

The Sea Eagles had four frontline props out that day but still managed to win comfortably.

"I think we showed against the Tigers when we had four front-rowers out that there is a bit of depth there, especially in the back-row," Kennedy said.

"Glenn Stewart is a terrific player and there are others there as well who can hopefully fly the flag for a while."

Skipper Michael Monaghan has put the onus on the Origin replacements to come up to the mark.

"Our young guys are going to get a chance to play more than one first grade game," he said.

"It will be a big test for them but let's see what they are made of.

"We will learn about our players, what kind of mental toughness they have - it's going to be a testing period for us."

Meanwhile Kite last night conceded he didn't have the form on the board to warrant selection in the NSW side.

"I can improve and play a lot better than I have been," he said.

"But I'm a bit disappointed because I thought I had a fair chance."

Kite will now set his sights on playing a role for the Blues later in the Origin series.

The Manly side to meet Parramatta is: Brett Stewart, Scott Donald, Terry Hill, Paul Stephenson, Chris Hicks, Michael Witt, Michael Monaghan (c), Jason King, Chad Randall, Brent Kite, Glenn Stewart, Steve Menzies, Luke Williamson.

Interchange: Shayne Dunley, Kylie Leuluai, Mark Bryant, Sam Harris.

The Eels, who are coming off the bye, will be without NSW Origin representative Nathan Hindmarsh.

The match kicks off at 7.30pm.

Paul Simpkins has been appointed to referee the opening State of Origin fixture at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday.

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