Melbourne fullback Billy Slater admits the loss of veteran prop Jason Ryles due to a hamstring injury for Friday's NRL preliminary final clash with Manly is a big blow, but says the Storm's squad is strong enough to cope.
Ryles, who hasn't played since late last month because of his troublesome hamstring, pulled up in training on Tuesday and is almost certain to miss the game at AAMI Park against the premiers.
However, he will be given a late fitness check on Thursday in the team's final session before coach Craig Bellamy makes a decision on a replacement for the former NSW front-rower.
Props Richie Fa'aso and Siosaia Vave are leading the race to take Ryles's place on the bench with North Queensland-bound utility Rory Kostjaysn also in the mix.
"He's been a big part of this side all year and gives us a lot of go-forward and he'll be sorely missed if he doesn't play," Slater said.
"He's doing everything he can to get it right so it's fingers crossed."
Melbourne have been boosted by the return of forward Todd Lowrie, centre Will Chambers and winger Justin O'Neill, who all missed the impressive 24-6 win over South Sydney in the opening round of the finals.
Slater said the team's ability to cope with the loss of two key players in such a big game had galvanised confidence.
"We were in a situation two weeks ago when people were pulling out at the last minute and those who filled their spot did a great job," he said.
"Our performance against Souths that day was probably our best of the season, we really put it all together.
"We need to do that again against Manly.
"It was a really great win against Souths. But if we look back on that game too much we will find ourselves sitting on our backsides with no more games to play this year."