Can Manly bounce back in 2008?

By Peter Roy

Manly may struggle without the underrated Michael Mongahan on deck, Peter Roy today gives his opinion on the Northen Beaches outfit in his first article for 2008. Welcome back Peter, great to have you on board for 2008.

The recent trial game against the Melbourne Storm, probably wasn’t the ideal guage for Manly especially after many predicted them to take out months of disappointed and frustration firstly on the rival Storm side, and then continue to take out their anger on others during the rest of season 2008.

Can the Sea-Eagles, who have a long list of talented squad members make amends for their grand final shocker against the Storm in 2007? Coach Des Hasler will be sure to remind survivors from ’07 of the pain when times get tough throughout the season, and after the poor first up showing against the Storm – chances are pretty good that Des may need to pull out the motivation card every now and then.

Possessing good speed on the fringes, strong defence that doesn’t leak too many points and a good amount of depth at the club, Manly do seem to still have the nucleus of a premiership winning side. If the leadership group of Orford, Lyon, Stewart, Watmough and Kite can remain injury free, then the Sea-Eagles have the talent to again challenge for the big prize.

Advantages:

Despite losing creative workhorse Michael Monaghan, the Sea-Eagles still seem to have a strong squad heading into season ’08. New signings Josh Perry and Heath L’Estrange will bolster an already powerful looking pack, with Perry and Adam Cuthbertson set to battle it out with Kite and King for the two starting prop positions.The addition of former Eels outside back David Vaeliki will add more potency to the Sea-Eagles backline, with the likes of Steve Bell and Steve Matai sure to be kept honest in competition for starting spots.

Concerns:

With the departure of Travis Burns, Manly remain quite light-on in the halves with the club betting the house on Matt Orford and Jamie Lyon. This doesn’t leave much room for error, should one of the two go down injured. The departure of Michael Monaghan also leaves a big hole in both the halves and hooking roles, with only the inexperienced Matt Ballin and new buy Heath L’Estrange left to fill the void. While there is depth aplenty through the outside backs and forwards, the lack of experienced, quality depth in the crucial halves department could well prove to be Manly’s Achilles heal.

Likely 2008 NRL Starting Side:

1- Brett Stewart
2- Michael Robertson
3- Steve Bell
4- Steve Matai
5- Michael Bani
6- Jamie Lyon
7- Matt Orford
8- Brent Kite
9- Matt Ballin
10- Jason King
11- Anthony Watmough
12- Glenn Stewart
13- Luke Williamson

14- Steve Menzies
15- Adam Cuthbertson
16- Josh Perry
17– Mark Bryant

Pre-Season Trial Matches:

16/02/08 v Melbourne Storm @ Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
29/02/08 v New Zealand Warriors @ Quad Park, Kawana Waters, QLD

2008 Departures and Acquisitions:

Acquisitions:
Josh Perry (Newcastle), David Vaeliki (Wigan), Heath L’Estrange (Sydney Roosters), David Williams (Parramatta), Tom Browne (South Sydney), Jared Waera-Hargreaves (NSWRU)

Departures:

Michael Monaghan and Chris Hicks (Warrington), Travis Burns (North QLD), Aaron Groom (Canterbury)

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