MANLY coach Geoff Toovey admits he can't put his finger on the reason his side are struggling against lesser sides, but promised an improved performance against St George Illawarra.
The Dragons will arrive at Brookvale Oval tonight to take on a Sea Eagles side reeling from a poor display in a 22-4 defeat to struggling Penrith last Sunday.
The premiers have also lost to the Gold Coast this season and handed Parramatta their only win of the season in round five.
Toovey made his players sit through a DVD of last Sunday's clash with the Panthers but denied he needed to read the riot act.
''It wasn't pretty, but in today's game, if a team doesn't perform to the top of their ability then they are going to get a bit of a hiding,'' Toovey said.
''The players are smart and on their game, and they know, I didn't have to point that out to them, and we move on.''
The Sea Eagles have already lost to the Dragons, 17-6, in round four at Kogarah. Despite that defeat, Toovey said he wasn't too disappointed with how his side played that night but admitted the Dragons are a side Manly struggle against.
The Dragons have won the past four matches against Manly but Toovey is confident of bucking that trend, with five-eighth Kieran Foran returning from injury.
''We haven't had too much success against them in the past. They're a very well-balanced side across the park,'' he said.
''But I thought we played well that game and I'm sure our boys will be inspired to perform well.
''And the home ground advantage may get us over the line.''
Steve Matai misses the game through suspension, but Toovey said he's confident Anthony Watmough will recover from a shoulder injury and will play.
Meanwhile, Canterbury coach Des Hasler has leapt to the defence of NRL referees, blaming the media for heaping more pressure on under-fire whistle-blowers.
Match officials have been in the firing line since last week's State of Origin opener in Melbourne following some contentious decisions that upset NSW. The referees chief, Bill Harrigan, is involved in showdown talks with the NRL in the fallout from the game with his future believed to be in doubt.
And Hasler said referees do not receive the same protection as officials in other sports. ''The referees in AFL, NBA and NFL football are more revered,'' Hasler said.
''To a certain extent referees are more persecuted in our game and you blokes [the media] have a fair bit to do with that.
''I back it up by saying it is part of the culture of rugby league to give it to the referee.''
Despite his claims, Hasler has himself been a staunch critic of officials in the past.
In 2009, when coaching Manly, he even took the step of reading out a prepared statement to accuse referees of costing his team the game with a controversial decision late in a game against Gold Coast.
However, the coach, who has two premiership wins under his belt, said officials in the modern game need support, not widespread criticism. He denied there was a lack of respect for them from players and coaches.
He also praised Blues coach Ricky Stuart's decision to snub the media in protest after last Wednesday's game. ''Coaches don't pick on referees, coaches just point out where they can improve,'' he said.
''It a tough job. They get the respect, it's more about support across the board.
''Coaches go heavy on referees behind closed doors, but with the media it's fair play, isn't it.
''I liked the way Ricky Stuart went about handling the referee decisions, it was pretty smart as he took the media out of the picture.''
Hasler also refused to criticise Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis following his expletive-laden discussion with referee Jason Robinson following a decision not to award his side a try against the Roosters on Monday.
''Mick did what every captain should do. He was questioning the try and I expect a captain to do it,'' Hasler said.
''I didn't hear any bad language, there were beeps over it. I heard the beeps, not the swearing.''
Hasler's views follow the news that under-fire NRL referees boss Bill Harrigan and his assistant Stuart Raper will retain their jobs for now, but the ARL Commission has confirmed they are under scrutiny.
ARL football operations manager Nathan McGuirk yesterday announced a review was under way into the game's match official operations.
Harrigan and Raper have been under heavy pressure over the standard of refereeing this year.
A newspaper report suggested they had lost the faith of senior referees.
The chief executive of the ARLC, David Gallop, received a document outlining Harrigan's perceived failings as referees boss on Wednesday, and that appears to have been the trigger for the review.
''That process has already commenced and will involve confidential discussions with a number of stakeholders,'' McGuirk said in a statement yesterday.
''We go into it with an open mind and will report to David Gallop in the near future.''
Central to the report was Harrigan's justification of Greg Inglis' highly controversial try for Queensland in the State of Origin opener.
Raper and Harrigan yesterday released a joint statement responding to the mounting criticism.
''We are happy to assist with a review into the structures in place with the match officials operations and development,'' Harrigan read.
''We are confident that we have the right procedures in place and, as always, our focus remains on working to ensure our entire squad of match officials continue to perform at the highest possible standards.''