Man­ner­ing ready for first start, says Kear­ney

The Southland Times - - SPORT - DAVID LONG

War­riors coach Stephen Kear­ney is con­fi­dent Si­mon Man­ner­ing is ready to step up to start a game.

The vet­eran player be­gan the two re­cent NRL games against the Cow­boys and Bron­cos on the side­lines as he made his way back from a shoul­der in­jury.

But with sec­ond rower Leivaha Pulu out for a while with a foot in­jury, the 32-year-old Man­ner­ing is set to start his first game of the sea­son, in Fri­day night’s block­buster against the undefeated Dragons at Mt Smart Sta­dium.

Kear­ney says he has no con­cerns about Man­ner­ing’s match fit­ness go­ing into the game.

‘‘Ab­so­lutely, he just needed a bit of time to get used to the rigours of the com­pe­ti­tion again,’’ he said.

‘‘He had 60-odd min­utes last week and 50-odd the week be­fore. Cou­pled with 280 NRL games, I’m sure that’s enough.’’

The War­riors picked up two in­juries in last week­end’s 27-18 loss to the Bron­cos and Kear­ney says it’s mixed news on Pulu and cen­tre Solomone Kata.

‘‘Leivaha is go­ing to be miss­ing a few weeks,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s got a bit of an is­sue on the top of his foot, so he’ll be miss­ing a bit of time.’’

Af­ter last Satur­day’s loss to the Bron­cos, Kear­ney lamented that his side wasn’t able to match Wayne Ben­nett’s team’s phys­i­cal­ity and men­tal ap­proach.

Tal­ent-wise, the War­riors have shown they can match it with any­one this sea­son, but the team learnt a big les­son last week­end about fronting up for ev­ery game.

‘‘It’s been a big month for the group and we weren’t off by too much,’’ Kear­ney said.

‘‘But the op­po­si­tion turned up and it was well doc­u­mented that it was a test­ing week for them.

‘‘So they came here with a real de­ter­mi­na­tion and at­ti­tude and when we’re off and have a few play­ers who aren’t quite match­ing them, then it makes for a re­ally tough day at the of­fice.

‘‘I was pleased we tried to scram­ble our­selves back into con­tention and it was 15-14 at half­time, but they had a lit­tle too much en­ergy for us.’’

Kear­ney rarely talks in de­tail about his coach­ing meth­ods or any mis­takes he may have made in the past. But yes­ter­day he gave an in­sight as to how he’s changed as a coach this sea­son and re­alised he didn’t need to be as hands-on.

‘‘Last year, I prob­a­bly tried to fix ev­ery­thing my­self,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve got some pretty handy peo­ple here.

‘‘So we’ve given them some own­er­ship in those ar­eas. There is prob­a­bly a bit more col­lab­o­rat­ing, in terms of work­ing as a whole foot­ball depart­ment. That’s been a ma­jor shift.’’

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