From Stuff . It's getting closer people.
By NEIL REID
SIMON Mannering will miss the start of the NRL season. The Warriors 2005 rookie of the year is in a moon boot after a leg injury.
And his spot on the wing is among a handful of positions still up for grabs as new Warriors coach Ivan Cleary looks to reveal his shadow 'Dream 17' for the February 25 trial against the Bulldogs at Carrara.
"I would like to have that pretty close for the last trial," Cleary told Sunday News.
"But I'm sure there will be a few positions -not many, but a couple - that are up for grabs even in the last two games.
"Certainly the first two games are a good opportunity for people to get in the frame.
"But I want the last trial to pretty much be a dress rehearsal for our first competition game of the season."
The Warriors first pre-season trial is against Canberra at North Harbour Stadium next Sunday.
"I've got a fair idea who will play the first game. But there's certainly the chance for players playing their way in," Cleary said.
But the Warriors squad next weekend won't include Mannering, new recruit George Gatis and blockbusting forward Sonny Fai. Kiwis fullback Brent Webb is also in doubt with a niggling groin strain.
"Simon has a stress fracture in his lower leg," Cleary said.
"He will be lucky to start the season.
"It's unfortunate. He had a really good off-season before getting injured so he already has a good fitness base.
"George got his moon boot off on Friday so he will be playing in the trials at some stage."
Fai could miss the first month of the season after shoulder surgery.
The trio of trial matches facing Cleary's Warriors continues the `new' tone for the club this year.
The club made sweeping changes after last season's disappointing 11th place finish -installing Cleary and John Ackland as the coaching duo.
The club also revealed a new playing strip late last month.
The changes continue with the scheduling of trials against three NRL sides. Last year the club had just one trial against the Eels and a second hitout against an average President's 13.
"I thought three trials against NRL opposition was really important," Cleary said.
"It's important we start the year well. I guess it is a bit of a conundrum with clubs on how many trials you play.
"Some clubs only like to have one or two. But I thought it was important we start well -and to do that we need to be ready.
"I thought it was imperative to have three good games. Having three games gives us a chance to try some other players, different combinations and give people the opportunity to put their hands up."
Meanwhile, Cleary said the mood among the side had changed considerably in the past week.
"There is a bit of excitement. I can sense it in the players, they are getting a bit keyed up and excited."