Manly will look to their forward depth in the opening rounds of the NRL season with stars Jake Trbojevic and Addin Fonua-Blake to miss the first few weeks after undergoing shoulder surgery.
The representative pair spoke detailed their recovery on Wednesday, revealing they are as fit as ever after a preseason of cardio work during rehab and aiming to return within the first month of the season.
It will leave a significant void in the Sea Eagles’ pack in the difficult opening rounds as they prepare to face Melbourne, the Roosters, Warriors and Canberra.
“It’s been a bit frantic but Des (Hasler) has all the boys in shape and whoever he puts out there round one, we’ll all have the trust and the faith in them to do the job,” Fonua-Blake told AAP.
“We lose two old heads but you’ll have two eager players looking to keep their spot in the team.”
Rising forwards Sean Keppie and Haumole Olakau’atu are expected to get their shot in the middle this weekend when the Sea Eagles play Cronulla in a trial at Kogarah.
The Sea Eagles struggled with injury at the end of 2019, with Keppie and Olakau’atu handed their NRL debuts in time for finals.
Both Trbojevic and Fonua-Blake needed surgery at the end of the NRL season but put it off to be able to play for Australia and Tonga respectively.
Fonua-Blake will meet with the surgeon next week with hopes of getting the all-clear to return in round two or three, while Trbojevic could be missing until round four.
“I feel fitter this year than I have been previous years. Knowing that I haven’t been running I had to change up a lot of things, I couldn’t eat the way I usually eat,” Fonua-Blake said.
“My weight is good now. As soon as I came back, I hit the ground running. I changed up my diet now that I’m not running, I had to start eating right.
“Now I’m back in the field doing training with the boys so hopefully the surgeon has good news for me.”
Trbojevic is also back training with the main group but has not progressed to full contact yet and is still building strength.
Meanwhile, Hasler underwent hip surgery over the pre-season but kept in regular contact with support staff, doing video sessions from his hospital bed while he recovered.
Trbojevic said the few weeks without Hasler at training was more relaxed, but said the coach has left no stone unturned to prepare the team for another huge season.
“He has everything recorded so he doesn’t miss anything,” he laughed.