The man described as Manly’s X-factor is set to return to NRL football this weekend after 344 days on the sidelines.

Brett Stewart, who is on the comeback from consecutive season-ending knee injuries, was named in Manly’s 24-man squad to take on New Zealand in Auckland on Saturday night.

It will be the electrifying fullback’s first match since round one last season, when he suffered a knee injury while making a try-saving tackle on Wests Tigers’ winger Lote Tuqiri.

The news was met with excitement by Stewart’s team-mates who have missed the former Australian representative’s try-scoring prowess for all but six games in the past two seasons.

Hooker Matt Ballin and five-eighth Kieran Foran both said Stewart’s return would add the “X-factor” into a team which scraped into the finals in his absence last year.

“He’s an amazing talent and he brings that X-Factor to our team,” Ballin said.

“It’s great for us to have him back and hopefully he has a great season.

“His speed looks good, his confidence is the main thing he’s getting back and just being his normal self … He’s enjoying training and enjoying life.”

When asked if Stewart could match the impact he had before successive knee reconstructions, Ballin was optimistic.

“I don’t think there’s any reason why he can’t (get back to where he was), and he just brings that speed to us and just plays so naturally, he’s hard to read what he does,” he added.

Foran added: “Everyone knows what he adds to a team, he’s just such an X-factor, it will be huge to have him back.

“He’s been training the house down.”

Coach Des Hasler was equally confident that Stewart had lost none of his speed in the past 24 months and said Stewart’s return would be an instant bonus to the Sea Eagles and was the equivalent of a marquee signing.

“(The speed) … There’s some stuff you’re born with,” Hasler said.

“At the time (of his injury) he was probably the best fullback in the game.

“He just has all those attributes that a side needs – the energy he brings, the confidence he brings.”

Hasler explained that two players would be omitted from the final squad which will fly out of Sydney on Friday.

But that pair is likely to be centre Jamie Lyon, who will be given more rest to recover from an ankle injury, and forward Joe Galuvao, who suffered a calf injury in training on Tuesday.

Stewart will need to pass some final medical tests this week to prove his fitness for the trip.

“He’s got some medical tests and fitness tests later this week so we’ll see how he comes up,” Hasler explained.

“It’s in the hands of our medical (team) who have done an outstanding job so far.”

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