LOD: It's a whole new ball game

Yes Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is out and yes it is a blow but with one young bull out another elder statesman emerges.


Having sat out the the past three matches due to suspension, Luke O'Donnell conveniently returns for the Tricolours this Saturday evening for what everyone is predictably labelling a battle of the forwards.


Enter O'Donnell.


On the back of some amazing form late in the season the veteran is determined to get the job done this weekend.


"To us Jared not playing is over in our minds, no one will think about it again and we're ready to do the best we can," O'Donnell said.


"I'm pumped to come back and just really excited to be playing in a finals series."


"Obviously there is more responsibility on myself with Jared not there but I'm well up for it, I've been training hard and I can handle it."


Who could argue, the rugby league journeyman has displayed the kind of hard working and aggressive performances, the unfortunate suspension aside, with which he has made his name.


As for returning after a few weeks off, how does a player ensure he is as close as possible to full match fitness?


"I did more training than usual but also this time Robbo wanted me to be around the team as much as possible so I would train around the team and do extra sessions either before or after training to make that possible," he said.


"The extra training was really intense so it has got to me to where I need to be."


Speaking of the Manly side O'Donnell knows we are in for an almighty encounter with the result in our own hands.


"Everything starts in the middle and they will test us," he said.


"We need to start well but we are expecting that intensity to last the full eighty minutes and not just the opening exchanges."


"As a group we need to make sure we don't get away from what we do well."


"Coming away with the win last weekend has been great for us."


Whilst proud of the teams achievements to date, O'Donnell confirmed the opening 26 rounds now count for very little as the excitement around the finals now starts to kick in.


"It is a whole new ball game now and we need to make sure we're ready."


"There is a great sense of excitement around the place, we have an exciting mix of guys with heaps of finals experience and a fair few with none at all so that all combined has created a great vibe."