Manly coach Des Hasler has backed his players to lift and reach the finals for the sixth straight year despite the devastating loss of star fullback Brett Stewart for up to five months.
Stewart will be out of football until at least late July following his second bout of knee surgery in as many years, the latest setback to a career dogged by on and off field dramas over the past 12 months.
The 25-year-old, who also faces court on sexual assault charges on Monday, is said to be 'shattered' at the prospect of yet another long injury lay-off.
Stewart played just five games last year due to injury and suspension, but Hasler believes his team-mates can keep their season alive long enough to ensure the match-winning No.1 plays a key role in the play-offs.
"It's a little bit worse than what we first expected (but) while it is devastating news for Brett and his team-mates, the positive is he will be back around Round 19, 20," a surprisingly upbeat Hasler said on Wednesday.
"He is disappointed but like any professional footballer he knows that injury is part and parcel of this game."
"He will be back to get his match fitness right for our march into the semi-finals."
"You will see Brett Stewart running again this year."
Hasler bristled at suggestions the Sea Eagles struggle to win without Stewart, who has scored a phenomenal 98 tries in just 119 appearances.
"We won nine from nine (without him last year) - the boys got the job done," the coach pointed out.
"There is no doubt with the belief and the ability of the players at this club, they'll get the job done again."
"It's going to have some impact on us but we've been there before and got over it and we'll do it again."
Manly co-captain Jamie Lyon also backed his players to overcome Stewart's enforced absence.
"It's a bit of bad luck for him and the rest of the team," Lyon said
"He's a bit shattered but he went through it last year so I suppose he's used to it."
"It's definitely a big loss but hopefully we can get a player in there to fill his boots."
Sea Eagles CEO Graham Lowe added: "You can't help but feel sorry for the bloke."
"Words can't cover what you'd like to say to him."
Michael Robertson is likely to play full-back against Parramatta on Sunday, with Ben Farrar and Will Hopoate also options.