SEA Eagles coach Trent Barrett says fullback Brett Stewart is as important to his team as Cameron Smith and Billy Slater are to the Melbourne Storm.
That high praise came as the Sea Eagles keep their fingers crossed that “Snake” will have recovered from a hamstring strain in time to play against the Sharks on Monday night at Brookvale.
Barrett said the team had missed Stewart’s presence and it would be a huge boost if his star fullback played.
“He is a terrific leader,” Barrett said.
“And that is probably one of the first things I noticed when I did get here. How good a leader Brett Stewart is and how important he is to the team.
Brett Stewart is a real leader at the Sea Eagles.
“It was pretty obvious early on in the piece when we took over that when Brett trained, training was a hell of a lot better.
“He is to us what Billy Slater and Cameron Smith are to Melbourne. He is that important to us.”
Barrett said it was not just what Stewart could do with the ball but his talk as well.
“I think our tryline defence will improve dramatically with Brett in the team and that’s just because of his talk and his leadership,” Barrett said.
Yesterday, the coach was still unsure whether Stewart would take the field, saying it had been touch and go every week.He is doing everything right and he is desperate to play,” Barrett said.
But Barrett said Stewart’s absence could not be used as an excuse and if he was not there the Sea Eagles still had the side capable of winning.
“I think Tom Trbojevic has done a terrific job filling in for him. He’s still eligible for under 20s and has been one of our better players,” he said.
Barrett said the players’ attitude was good and they could not prepare any better than they are.
“They are really putting in the work and putting in the hours and we are confident as a coaching staff that we are doing the right thing with them,” Barrett said.
“It has taken a little bit longer than we thought and we have probably been our own worst enemy in the first two rounds.”