2016 was a tough year for Sea Eagles fans as it again had to watch the Finals Series from their televisions sets after the Northern Beaches boys recorded just 8 wins from its 24 matches, including losing the last five matches of the season.
New coach Trent Barrett has certainly been given a baptism of fire upon entry to Brookvale; adding to this is the loss of experienced players Glenn Stewart, Brett Stewart (lost to injury for most of 2016) and now the retirement of club legend Jamie Lyon.
However the former Australian Kangaroos halfback has invested heavily in the transfer market this past offseason with the signings of halfback Jackson Hastings from the Roosters, Fijian flyer Akulia Uate from the fledgling Newcastle Knights and boom rookie Cameron Cullen from the Gold Coast Titans.
Barrett and his coaching staff have heavily invested in youth for this season and will be hoping that, mixed with some experienced heads such as Lewis Brown, Daly Cherry-Evans and Martin Taupau it can have some extensive success in 2017 and beyond.
Manly will have a completely different roster to the one it had in 2016, whether that pays off is a different conversation all together. One thing is for sure though, Rugby League fans on the Northern Beaches aren’t happy with losing seasons especially after last years debacle. So Barrett and his fellow coaches will need to hit the ground running in the first few weeks of season 2017 to ensure he isn’t on the hot seat at Brookvale.
Why They’ll Win It: League fans all over Australia stood up and took notice of the explosiveness and sheer skills of Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic in 2016. Having played at the back end of 2015 with much success (he crossed for 8 tries in 9 games) Trbojevic was breathing fire for Manly whether it was on the wing, centre or his favoured role of fullback.
His ability to break open games with his fleet-footed stepping is a joy to watch. Not limited to ball running, “Tommy Turbo” as he is affectionately known by Manly fans is just as accustomed with his ball playing skills as evident by his 11 try assists in 2016.
If Manly is to have success this season, it comes off the back of Trbojevic’s play at the back and his ability to get on the outside of opposition defenders.
Manly’s forward pack will also have a say in its success in 2017. Martin Taupau was one of the few shining lights last year and will be called upon again to keep the engine room humming.
His ability to create offloads will be vital as will the rest of the forward pack who need to do a better job of getting over the advantage line and winning the battle against the opposition forwards. The Sea Eagles do this, and the likes of Trbojevic, Tafua and Uate will score plenty of points.
Why They Won’t: Manly may have improved its roster but its is till severely lacking a quality five-eighth and hooker. The pressure on Daly Cherry-Evans last year was obvious and he seems a burdened player since his name was dragged through the mud after he turned his back on the Gold Coast Titans and their multi-million dollar deal last year. He needs support in the play making duties as the experiment of Dylan Walker in the halves didn’t do the job. The signings of Cameron Cullen and Jackson Hastings along with veteran Blake Green are a move in the right direction but all apart from Green are unproven (Gareth Widdop-syndrome anyone?)
They also lack the necessary weapons out wide and look vulnerable defensively with Dylan Walker and Akulia Uate potentially playing on the same side of the field.
Players To Watch: The aforementioned Tom Trbojevic will be vital to the chances of the Sea eagles, particularly his run metres from the back.
Up in the engine room, look for a big season from Tom’s brother Jake who has been a monster the last few years. He was played at lock last year a lot and got through a mountainous amount of work. He has a killer offload and if utilized properly, could be a real danger player.
Finally, Daly Cherry Evans needs to find his 2011 form. His kicking game will be important to the Manly hopes this season as well as his passing game (which includes second-phase play that virtually disappeared from Manly’s game last season). If DCE can fire, then the Sea Eagles will score some points and have a lot of success. He needs his support crew to back him up though as he won’t be able to do it all by himself.
Rookies: Cameron Cullen may not be a full on rookie in the sense of the word but he comes to Brookvale with big wraps on him after an up and down period at the Gold Coast Titans. As mentioned above, DCE needs support in the halves and Cullen will be in a three-way dance with Blake Green and Jackson Hastings for the coveted number 6 jersey. Cullen has a good kicking game and has good pace over 20 metres for a half back. He managed to find the try line twice in five games for the Titans last season and will need to muster up everything he has to try and break through into the Manly top 17. One advantage Cullen does have is his ability to play hooker and could potentially be used as a bench utility by coach Trent Barrett.
Gains: Cameron Cullen (Gold Coast Titans), Blake Green (Melbourne Storm), Jackson Hastings (Sydney Roosters), Brian Kelly (Gold Coast Titans), Shaun Lane (NZ Warriors), Lloyd Perrett (Canterbury Bulldogs), Curtis Sironen (Wests Tigers), Akulia Uate (Newcastle Knights), Jonathan Wright (NZ Warriors).
Losses: Jamie Buher (Newcastle Knights), Luke Burgess (Catalans Dragons), Matt Parcell (Leeds Rhinos), Josh Starling (Newcastle Knights), Tom Symonds (Huddersfield Giants), Siosaia Vave (Parramatta Eels), Brayden Williame (Catalans Dragons), Tim Moltzen (Retired), Jamie Lyon (Retired), Nathan Green (released), Feleti Mateo (released)
Best Line Up:
1. Tom Trbojevic
2. Akulia Uate
3. Dylan Walker
4. Matthew Wright
5. Jorge Tafua
6. Blake Green
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
8. Martin Taupau
9. Apisai Koroisau
10. Nate Myles
11. Lewis Brown
12. Darcy Lussick
13. Jake Trbojevic
14. Curtis Sironen
15. Addin Fonua-Blake
16. Brenton Lawrence
17. Cameron Cullen
Head to http://www.leagueunlimited.com.au for all of the remaining previews of the other NRL clubs!