SOME tackling practice with two burly teammates helped convince former NSW winger James McManus he was ready to return for the Knights in their must-win game against North Queensland at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday night.
McManus has missed the past five games since fracturing his right eye socket in Newcastle’s 32-6 win over Manly at Hunter Stadium on July 14. Coach Wayne Bennett named him on the left wing in place of Kevin Naiqama, who was retained on a five-man bench.
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Doctors cleared him last Friday, but McManus indicated it was not until he tried to stop props Zane Tetevano and Robbie Rochow, who stand 189centimetres tall and weigh 105kilograms and 103kg respectively, that he was sure he could take on the Cowboys.
‘‘I had big Zane Tetevano and Robbie Rochow running at me yesterday, and towelling me up as well, so there’s no concern there. There’s no wingers on the field the size of Zane Tetevano,’’ McManus said after training yesterday.
‘‘I got cleared by the doctor late last week, late Friday afternoon, but I needed a few days of contact really to prepare me, so I knew as soon as we started training this week I was going to be back in and raring to go.’’
McManus said he suffered the injury trying to tackle Manly skipper Jamie Lyon, but stayed on the field and scored two tries against the defending NRL premiers.
‘‘It was a bit of an ordinary injury I ended up with. I came in off the line to clean up Jamie Lyon and managed to collect his elbow across my face,’’ he said.
‘‘A week later, I had to get some surgery and four plates [inserted] and a few scars which my wife wasn’t all that happy about but it’s feeling good and my head’s holding together, so I’m ready to go.
‘‘The problem was my face had sort of dinted in and down a little bit, so they had to pull that back up and plate it all together and put a little membrane under my eye socket as well to hold my eye in place ... so I needed to take the four or five weeks I ended up missing, because it ended up being pretty serious.’’
McManus was pleased to see Naiqama play so well filling in for him, and said the competition for spots heading into next season would keep him and Aku Uate on their toes.
‘‘It’s good for the club, and it’s one of those things where ... in the past, injuries have probably cost us a fair bit, but this year with Tyrone [Roberts] and Kevvie, guys like that, we’ve been able to cover positions a lot better,’’ he said.
‘‘That’s what Wayne has tried to bring, that good depth to the squad with good, quality players, so that’s good to see and it’s good for the club’s future. The three of us are all off contract at the end of next year, so that will be good.’’
Five-eighth Jarrod Mullen did not complete training at Mayfield yesterday but said he was in no doubt for his match-up with Cowboys genius Johnathan Thurston.
Mullen had an ice pack strapped to his right leg after feeling tightness in his calf but will travel with the team to Townsville today and is confident of playing.