After somewhat of a solid year under Trent Barrett, the Manly Sea Eagles will look to make finals yet again in 2018. Although knocked out early in the 2017 finals series, the talent is there to make a push for another finals berth.
Do Manly have the consistency, though, to go toe-to-toe against the elite teams of the competition?
The Turbo Brothers
Arguably the best brotherly duo in the NRL at present and even in the last several seasons in the eyes of many, the two very different players loom as crucial players for Manly.
Tom Trbojevic, a lanky, speedy yet nifty fullback, has come into his own in the role since Brett Stewart’s retirement. Very similar in some ways to the man they called ‘Snake’, Tommy Turbo possesses all the skills with the ball in hand, positioning and silky passing to produce opportunities.
He is undoubtedly one of the crucial elements for this Manly side if they are to perform consistently in 2018, particularly given the likelihood of a young, inexperienced half to partner Daly Cherry-Evans.
Onto his brother Jake Trbojevic, a very different yet equally effective player. A lock forward who is coming off a career-best season, Jake Trbojevic is on the precipice of elite status and likely honours for NSW if the cards fall his way in 2018.
A hard-running back-rower with a tremendous work-ethic, Jake’s impact on the side is equally imperative to that of his brother’s Tom. Together, along with a relatively talented spine, the Sea Eagles are shaping as somewhat of an underdog side in many ways as they look to stake their claim for the 2018 title.
The Daly Effect
If there was ever a season for Daly Cherry-Evans to step up and be the leader and organiser Manly fans want and need him to be, 2018 is that season. With the likelihood that he will be playing alongside a younger, inexperienced half such as Lachlan Croker this season, his talents will prove crucial for Croker’s development.
Another motivating factor for the man nicknamed DCE is a potential Origin berth for QLD.
With the potential unlikelihood that both Cronk and Thurston will not be playing this year, his possible good form could lead to a recall to the Queensland side. Whether that would lead to a starting berth or not, the chances and opportunities are there for him to make his presence felt.
Manly’s hopes of any premiership glory hang on the performances of DCE as well as his experience and leadership in guiding the younger players coming through. Is he ready to take over that mantle and assume the responsibility or will the lack of another solid half alongside him hinder his style in 2018?
Salary Cap Turmoil
As the Manly football club battles alleged salary cap breaches, the question must be asked; just how will it affect their on-field performances?
In the past, teams have rarely been consistent during similar ordeals but with this saga set to continue on into the start of the year, are the club and its players well equipped to deal with it.
Although the players and coach may say that it has no effect on the team as they focus on the footy, the lingering effect is enough to cripple even the most seasoned veteran. With so much riding on the season and the expectation so high, the Sea Eagles need a good start or it could be a long season.
They are not the first club to be involved in dramas of this nature and certainly will not be the last. Dealing with the issues of it all, however, is no easy feat. Can Manly be the ones to buck the trend and produce consistent form despite off-field upheaval?
Gains and Losses
Gains: Lachlan Croker (Canberra Raiders), Toafofoa Sipley (New Zealand Warriors), Kelepi Tanginoa (Parramatta Eels), Jack Gosiewski (South Sydney Rabbitohs) & Joel Thompson (St George Illawarra Dragons).
Losses: Pita Godinet, Blake Green, Brenton Lawrence, Jesse Martin, Steve Matai, Nate Myles & Brett Stewart.
Player To Watch
Traditionally, we would pick a young Manly junior for this part but a player that has a chance to make their mark in 2018 is Lachlan Croker.
Joining the Sea Eagles from the Canberra Raiders, an opportunity exists for the young half to make a name for himself and perform well alongside Daly Cherry-Evans.
A talented half, Croker was a consistent performer in both the Holden Cup and the Intrust Super Premiership, culminating in a first-grade debut for the Raiders.
With the potential to be so much more, injuries robbed Croker of further opportunities and the chance to prove himself.
With that chance now arising at Manly given the opening in their halves, he will learn alongside DCE as he looks to become an efficient player. Crafty with the ball in hand and versatile with his ability to play fullback, this is a chance for the lesser-known Croker to stake his claim and show the NRL what he is all about.
1. Tom Trbojevic
2. Jorge Taufua
3. Dylan Walker
4. Brian Kelly
5. Akuila Uate
6. Lachlan Croker
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
8. Martin Taupau
9. Apisai Koroisau
10. Darcy Lussick
11. Joel Thompson
12. Curtis Sironen
13. Jake Trbojevic (C)
14. Lewis Brown
15. Lloyd Perrett
16. Addin Fonua-Blake
17. Frank Winterstein
Coach: Trent Barrett.