Manly centre Steven Bell says he won’t jeopardise the Sea Eagles’ NRL premiership hopes by playing injured against New Zealand Warriors on Saturday night.
Bell rates himself an 85 per cent chance of playing the preliminary final after today completing his first training session since limping off the field with a strained calf muscle two minutes into Manly’s win over St George Illawarra a fortnight ago.
The former Queensland centre admits he felt slightly embarrassed to pull up so early in the qualifying final and doesn’t want a repeat in the grand final qualifier and leave his side one man down.
Manly coach Des Hasler said there were protocols in place to check if Bell is fit to play the Warriors but the player himself said he was likely to make the call.
“I think Des will ask me if I’m right and if I don’t think I’m right then I’m not going to go on for two minutes again,” Bell told AAP.
“I don’t want to let the boys down so if I don’t think I can last the 80 minutes then I won’t play.
“I had a run Monday and it went well. I will train today and if that goes alright I will definitely be right for the weekend.
“I’m thinking I’m about 85 per cent at the moment.”
The ongoing concern over Bell is mirrored down in Cronulla where skipper Paul Gallen remains in doubt to play in Friday’s preliminary final with Melbourne.
Gallen has not trained since the Sharks beat Canberra two weeks ago but club officials are hopeful he will overcome his corked thigh for tomorrow’s final training session.
It was fortuitous that both Manly and Cronulla had last week off as injuries or illness would have prevented several players from turning out in semi-finals.
The potential loss of Bell and Gallen for the grand final deciders would be massive blows to Manly and Cronulla as they face two clubs who are well and truly battle-hardened.
Manly’s opponents, the Warriors, have won 10 of their past 12 games to reach the final four with at least their last four games all do-or-die battles.
The Sea Eagles, meanwhile, have coasted to this point after an easy 38-6 win over the Dragons two weeks ago.
“We’ve had a couple of really good days on the training paddock but that’s never the same as a game,” said Manly five-eighth Jamie Lyon.
“We would like to think we are (battle hardened).
“Semi-finals is about completions. We have to get through our tackles and get the ball down the other end. That is pretty much our game plan.”
Manly coach Des Hasler insisted his side were in no better position than the Warriors to win, declaring the game nothing more than a 50-50 contest.
“It is very, very even ground come Saturday night,” said Hasler.
“They’ve been going very well the last two weeks. They have plenty of good momentum and are playing with plenty of energy mixed with emotion.”
But after making last year’s grand final, Hasler wouldn’t buy into talk that anything less than reaching this year’s decider would be a failure.
“That’s something we have to control ourselves,” he said.
“There is a real opportunity there to make the grand final and we just have to make the most of it.
“We have to turn up and make things go right on the night.”