Wests Tigers Intrust Super Premiership side, Western Suburbs, will be desperate to bounce back on Saturday when they face the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles.
Seemingly locked in for a top four finish and a potential minor premiership tilt a month ago, a disappointing run of form has seen the Magpies drop out of the top four and in to a battle now just to stay inside the top eight with five games remaining in the Intrust Super Premiership regular season.
After going down 40-22 to the Bulldogs at Belmore last week, Western Suburbs again find themselves on the road this Saturday — as they will for every game remaining in the season — and the trip across to the Northern Beaches to take on the Sea Eagles at Lottoland won't be easy. Manly's feeder team have lost just two games at the venue this year (both of which were against very tough sides), and after pushing the high-flying Mounties all the way last week, will be far from a push-over come Saturday afternoon.
It was Western Suburbs who emerged triumphant when these two sides met earlier in the season with a gritty 26-18 win at Leichhardt Oval but it's shaping as a very different looking team this weekend.
Tim Grant, Oliver Clark, Tuimoala Lolohea and Toni Tali are all absent with injury, while Robbie Rochow has been called up to the first-grade squad following the injuries to Chris Lawrence and Josh Aloiai.
Their unavailability sees Joseph Ratu, Cowen Epere and development forward Sam McIntyre move in to the starting side, and they'll face a tough test against a dominant Sea Eagles pack containing plenty of first-grade experience in Toafofoa Sipley, Joey Lussick, Lloyd Perrett, James Hasson and Lewis Brown.
Jersey Flegg-eligible forwards Ben Seufale and Alex Seyfarth also join the bench as the Magpies depth is tested once again, although there is some welcome relief in the inclusion of Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (NRL) and Jacob Liddle (illness) who both missed last week's heavy loss to the Bulldogs.
Liddle in particular looms as a key player in Saturday's game; his last-start performance in a losing side to Mounties was nothing short of exceptional with eight runs for 140 metres, 3 tackle breaks and a club-record 73 tackles in 80 minutes. If he can generate space out of dummy half and, in turn, bring Tyson Gamble and Pita Godinet in to the game more close to the line, then the Magpies have shown to have enough talent within their side to bounce back and get the two points available this weekend.
It's far from desperate times for Western Suburbs, who will still sit in the top eight regardless of this week's result, and a top four spot is certainly not out of the question given they are only two points back of the Dragons in fourth. But with an extremely tough schedule coming up away to the Panthers (1st) and Mounties (2nd) over the next two weeks, bouncing back this Saturday is certainly going to be key.
Tune in to FOX League from 12:30pm AEST to catch all the action ahead of kickoff at 12:45pm.
Match: Sea Eagles v Magpies
Round 20 -
Fullback for Sea Eagles is number 1 Jade AndersonFullback for Magpies is number 1 Watson Heleta
Winger for Sea Eagles is number 2 Vai ToutaiWinger for Magpies is number 2 Harrison O'Toole
Centre for Sea Eagles is number 19 Tevita FunaCentre for Magpies is number 3 Braden Robson
Centre for Sea Eagles is number 4 Jonathan WrightCentre for Magpies is number 4 Lucas Price
Winger for Sea Eagles is number 5 John FolauWinger for Magpies is number 5 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak
Five-Eighth for Sea Eagles is number 6 Tom WrightFive-Eighth for Magpies is number 6 Tyson Gamble
Halfback for Sea Eagles is number 7 Cade CustHalfback for Magpies is number 7 Pita Godinet
Prop for Sea Eagles is number 18 Lloyd PerrettProp for Magpies is number 8 Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu
Hooker for Sea Eagles is number 14 Lewis BrownHooker for Magpies is number 9 Jacob Liddle
Prop for Sea Eagles is number 10 Toafofoa SipleyProp for Magpies is number 10 Cowen Epere
2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 11 Jack Gosiewski2nd Row for Magpies is number 11 Robbie Rochow
2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 12 James Hasson2nd Row for Magpies is number 12 Sam McIntyre
Lock for Sea Eagles is number 13 Tom AmoneLock for Magpies is number 13 Patrice Siolo
Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 16 Tyler CasselInterchange for Magpies is number 14 Bayley Sironen
Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 17 Dylan KellyInterchange for Magpies is number 15 Kurt Aldridge
Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 20 Dean MattersonInterchange for Magpies is number 16 Alex Seyfarth
Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 22 Fred Junior MaualaInterchange for Magpies is number 21 Ben Seufale