Playmaker Dylan Walker is set to finally overcome an ankle injury and start in Manly’s clash with NRL ladder leaders Penrith on Saturday.
Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler said he did not need to rush Walker back thanks to Cade Cust, who has starred since earning the No.6 jersey three weeks ago.
But Hasler all but gave Walker the green light to not only launch his comeback following five weeks on the sidelines but also start after the five-eighth trained strongly on Friday.
“If he pulls up okay (on Saturday) yeah definitely that (starting) is a chance of happening,” he said.
“As long as there are no repercussions (from training on Saturday) we will get him up.”
Walker was named on an extended bench for the Panthers clash but is likely to replace starting five-eighth Cust, who capped a remarkable month by confirming this week he had re-signed for another two seasons.
Hasler said the presence of Cust – who has played just 12 NRL games – ensured they did not need to fast track Walker’s return.
“We are not rushing anybody,” he said.
“It is great to see a young fella like Cade step up. It’s great for our depth.
“(But) he (Walker) brings that level of experience and big match mentality – he is looking forward to playing.”
Manly second-rower Joel Thompson is also set to overcome an ankle injury and face Penrith after missing training earlier in the week.
“He’s trained pretty well this week so we are confident,” Hasler said.
It seems ninth-placed Manly will need all the help they can get if they are to snap Penrith’s six match winning run.
The Panthers have won 10 of their last 14 games against Manly and four of their last six at Lottoland.
Penrith’s tough 22-14 win over Gold Coast gave them their best season start in club history, claiming nine victories from the first 11 rounds for the first time.
“They sit on top of the table for a reason,” Hasler said.
Besides Penrith, wily Sea Eagles mentor Hasler was also mindful of what he perceived as a 10m crackdown this round judging by the officiating in South Sydney’s win over St George Illawarra on Thursday.
“They were really set about making a point of the 10m last night. It was a warning shot across the bow – it is something we have to be mindful of,” he said.