NRL 2019: Manly scramble to cover Martin Taupau's playoff absence

Martin Taupau (right) is marched for a high tackle
Martin Taupau (right) is marched for a high tackle. Photo credit: AAP

Manly might be forced to change their plan of attack to try to overcome the loss of gun forward Martin Taupau for Saturday's elimination final showdown with Cronulla.

With Manly among the best teams through the middle this year, the former Kiwis prop has formed one half of arguably the best front-row pairing, alongside Addin Fonua-Blake.

The Sea Eagles attack has been most effective off the back of the pair's dominance.

With Taupau and Fonua-Blake taking quick play-the-balls, hookers Apisai Koroisau and Manase Fainu have been dangerous running from dummy-half.

But with Taupau suspended for one game and chief support player Tom Trbojevic 
injured, Koroisau said Manly might need to play around the Sharks, rather more than directly through the middle.

"Marty is a massive aspect of our team," Koroisau said. "He does so much great work and it's going to be hard to replace. 

"In terms of the quick play-the-balls, we're just going to have to find different ways around it.

"Instead of trying to go over them, we might have to try and go around them a bit - maybe even just mix it up with our plays.

"You can't replace Marty Taupau. We're going to have to try and buy another week, so he comes back."

Taupau has averaged 138 metres a game this year for Manly, while his second-phase play from his handy offloads will also be missed.

Causing the Sea Eagles more pain is the fact their two first-choice edge players - Curtis Sironen (foot) and Joel Thompson (arm) - are also missing.

But they might have ex-Kangaroo Tony Williams lurking down one side, after being granted an exemption to pick the former star from their reserve-grade squad.

Regardless, Fonua-Blake said he knew he had to step up in the middle against a Sharks pack including Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen, Aaron Woods and Matt Prior.

"Obviously, I have to pick up a bit of slack and Jake [Trbojevic] as well," Fonua-Blake said.

"They're all big boys [the Cronulla players] and work really hard. We're going to have our hands full this weekend.

"I love coming up against Andrew [Fifita], there's a bit of banter on the field with the big fella. It should be good - can't wait.

"And then, Paul Gallen is going to be playing hard and Matty Prior is playing good... Hopefully this weekend, we do a job on them."

AAP

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