Manly have been given an NRL mid-season boost, with Tom Trbojevic set to return two weeks early from a leg injury.
Trbojevic, who injured his knee and ankle in a controversial tackle against Brisbane last month, was originally scheduled to return in round 18 against Penrith.
However that has now been revised to two weeks earlier against Cronulla, allowing him the chance to play one game before NSW name their team for the third State of Origin in Brisbane.
The Sea Eagles claimed their second win in as many matches without him on Sunday, surviving to hold out Canberra 21-20 in golden point at Lottoland.
The result left them sixth on the ladder – and just two points off second – at the halfway mark of the season, well exceeding most early-year predictions.
Manly are also playing at a severe disadvantage, with more than $1 million of salary cap space wiped out by the injured duo of Brett Stewart and Steve Matai – despite their careers being over.
Manly coach Trent Barrett said the continuing doubt from others about their season had driven them.
“I always knew I had a good side,” Barrett said.
“We can use it as motivation that no one gives us hope, and probably still don’t.
“I think there is a lot of people still waiting for us to fall over.”
The win over Canberra did come at a cost though, with winger Jorge Taufua potentially ruled out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
The Sea Eagles have been playing Matthew Wright at fullback, who could shift to the wing as cover upon Trbojevic’s return.
Wright ran 168 metres on Sunday, and has been impressive in his two games at the back.