Steve Matai will rely on his Manly teammates to keep his dream of back-to-back NRL premierships alive after he accepted a one-game suspension for a high tackle that left Bulldogs wing Sam Perrett dazed during last weekend's qualifying final.
Rather than risk a two-match ban by unsuccessfully contesting the charge - a scenario which would also rule the former Kiwis international out of a potential qualifying final next weekend - the Sea Eagles lodged an early guilty plea so the habitual offender will miss Friday night's semifinal against North Queensland in Sydney.
Matai's swinging arm on fellow New Zealand international Perrett had attracted a grade two careless high tackle charge from the match review committee to extend the competition's worst disciplinary record over the past five years.
The latest charge was Matai's 13 charge since the start of the 2007 season and the suspensions he was incurred since then now amount to 21 weeks.
Until his high shot on Perrett, Matai had been relatively well behaved in 2012 - a two-game ban after knocking out Penrith's Danny Galea with another swinging arm in May was his previous indiscretion.
The 150-game centre's absence means Manly may need two new centres for the sudden-death clash against the in-form Cowboys as co-captain Jamie Lyon is battling a calf injury.
The inspirational former Kangaroos and New South Wales representative will be given until shortly before kick-off to prove his fitness.
Meanwhile, Manly's other co-captain Jason King can play the Cowboys after the front rower admitted a grade one careless high tackle on Bulldogs prop James Graham.
Early guilty pleas by Kiwis second rower Kevin Proctor and Siosaia Vave for a grade one dangerous throw in relation to a tackle on South Sydney prop Sam Burgess last weekend frees the Melbourne Storm duo to play their preliminary final against the winner of the Rabbitohs and Canberra Raiders semifinal on Saturday night.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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