MANLY centre Steve Matai would have been lucky to play again this year after his high tackle on Canterbury winger Sam Perrett on Friday night if a previous suspension hadn’t been wiped from his judiciary record just two days before.
Without the fortuitous timing he might have only made it back if Manly had made the grand final.
As it is, Matai must beat a grade-two careless high-tackle charge to play in Friday night’s sudden-death final against North Queensland but he would have faced a two-match suspension had the offence occurred before September 5.
The base penalty for a grade-two careless high tackle is 125 demerit points but Matai received a 50 per cent loading because of another high-tackle charge earlier this season, and has 46 carryover points.
However, a further 50 per cent loading for a grade-three reckless high tackle on Bulldogs hooker Michael Ennis in the final premiership match of the 2010 season, which cost Matai a seven-match ban, expired last Wednesday.
Sea Eagles officials have until noon today to decide whether to contest the charge but Matai is expected to plead guilty as he would be suspended for another match if unsuccessful.
Manly prop Jason King was also charged with a grade-one careless high tackle but will escape a ban.
The Sea Eagles said they had good news from scans of co-captain Jamie Lyon’s injured calf. Lyon was initially listed on the Manly website as out for the season but was later listed as a starter against the Cowboys on Friday night.
Lyon was limping badly when he left the field before half-time in the 16-10 loss to Canterbury but the club said in a statement yesterday he had pulled up better than expected.
‘‘Scans revealed co-captain Jamie Lyon’s calf injury is not as bad as first thought,’’ the statement said. ‘‘He’ll be monitored throughout the week and given until the last minute to prove his fitness.’’
A fan on Twitter posted: ‘‘Saw Jamie Lyon at school drop off this morning, calf had a compression bandage on it but he wasn’t limping.’’
Sea Eagles forward Joe Galuvao also underwent scans yesterday but club officials said neither he nor Tony Williams were in doubt. Galuvao told reporters outside the medical centre that he hoped Matai would also be available. ‘‘I’m sure the club will do everything in their power to get Steve off,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s an integral part of our team. Fingers crossed.’’
Melbourne pair Kevin Proctor and were charged with a grade-one dangerous throw for their lifting tackle on South Sydney’s Sam Burgess but both can escape suspension with an early plea.
Meanwhile, the NRL is hopeful of enticing Manly fans to Allianz Stadium for Friday night’s match after announcing special transport services for this weekend’s finals matches.
On Friday night, special bus services will be in operation from the northern beaches to Allianz Stadium for the match between the defending premiers and North Queensland.
The arrangements come amid fears of a repeat of last year’s finals clash between the two clubs at the same venue, which attracted a crowd of just 13,000.
However, this year the Sea Eagles are urging their supporters to ‘‘help transport Fortress Brookvale’’ and turn ‘‘Allianz Stadium maroon and white’’ for the match.