NRL Previews part six now as we dissect the Manly Sea Eagles. So much has happened for them, much of it not good, but can they bounce back and put things in the past?
Coaching struggles, the return of an old coach, players in trouble, players surprisingly leaving but still some talented players.
Can Manly put all the negativity behind them and perform on the field when it matters?
The Return of Des
In late 2011, Des Hasler’s time at Manly ended abruptly. Very abruptly.
Despite his previous success with the club and building a consistently good team, Hasler was sacked.
That sacking came as a result of the club accusing Hasler of contract breaches pertaining to convincing Manly players to join the Bulldogs.
However, that was then and this is now. All is forgiven and Des is back! What does it mean for Manly, though?
Although Hasler is a favourite son of many, will his return lead to success at Manly or contract issues and dilemmas?
With the need to address several positions and particularly in light of Dylan Walker’s alleged domestic violence charges, the make-up of their team remains largely unknown.
As they look to enter a bit of a rebuilding phase, they will have to work doubly hard to keep up with some of the more elite teams.
Though with Hasler at the helm, they will dig deep and grind out as long as possible in games.
The halves merry-go-round
Since the departure of Kieran Foran from the club, finding a stable halves partner for Daly Cherry-Evans has not been easy.
Without going out to actively sign one, the club has tried to rely from those from within.
Whether that be natural halves in the ranks or utilising other players with utility value.
That approach has seen the likes of Apisai Koroisau, Lewis Brown, Dylan Walker, Blake Green, Tom Wright and others tried but with no success.
Some players ultimately moved on early, and perhaps we will never know what could have been had they stayed.
More recently, although he was at times consistent, Lachlan Croker proved a decent foil for Cherry-Evans at Manly.
His injury late in the season nipped any consistency among the two halves, however, forcing a reshuffle.
Halves, their combinations, their partnership and how they work together, is such a crucial aspect in the game today.
Cherry-Evans is a good halfback but has been criticised previously for not taking control when needed.
With the right half alongside him that can take some pressure off – a genuine half – it could be the key pump up this Manly side.
A side still smarting from all the recent off-field turmoil embroiling their club.
Bouncing back from off-field turmoil
Manly are a club that prides themselves on success, both on and off the field, as well as maintaining a good culture.
With a litany of success in recent years to back that up and plenty of consistency over the years, the trend would seemingly continue.
As the inconsistency crept into their overall game, however, as players were in and out of form, things slowly began to change.
The relationship between coach and the powerbrokers became stagnated and bitter, to the point where immediate change was made for 2019.
Under Trent Barrett, although results were not where they could have been, things seemed ok.
However, as time went on, the situation become almost untenable and the heavy hitters at Manly reacted.
Barrett was given the flick as head coach, though he would still be paid for the role in accordance with his existing contract.
Entering is Hasler, who Manly fans will hope can reinvigorate the club again and bring back the culture so many fans have come to know.
Doing so will be no easy feat, however, as he wrestles with the ongoing saga surrounding Dylan Walker and his alleged domestic violence dispute.
Among other things, Hasler will have to coach a side that is perhaps not as strong in the eyes of many and work with what he has to achieve success.
If Manly want anything to go their way in 2019, they have to fix the culture first and Hasler may just be the man to do that.
Gains and Losses
Gains: Jade Anderson (2019), Cade Cust (2019), Albert Hopoate (2019), Sean Keppie (2019), Semisi Kioa (2019), Luke Metcalf (2019), Haumole Olakau’atu (2019), Brendan Elliott (Gold Coast Titans, 2019), Reubenn Garrick (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2019), Trent Hodkinson (Cronulla Sharks, 2019), Corey Waddell (Penrtih Panthers, 2019) and Kane Elgey (Gold Coast Titans, 2020).
Losses: Lewis Brown (released), Jackson Hastings and Joey Lussick (both Salford Red Devils), Brian Kelly (Gold Coast Titans), Shaun Lane (Parramatta Eels), Darcy Lussick (Toronto Wolfpack), Akuila Uate (Huddersfield Giants), Tom Wright (rugby union) and Jonathan Wright (retired).
Player to Watch: His father is synonymous with the Manly club and his brother also donned the Manly colours but Albert Hopoate will look to forge his own path in rugby league.
Regarded by some as the best of the Hopoate brothers to have played rugby league, he took the Harold Matthews landscape by storm with some dominant displays.
Still only a young buck at 17, however, Hopoate will be unable to play first-grade but he does appear to be in the overall squad to gain that exposure and experience.
As his development continues and as his overall game expands and grows, the Manly faithful will be hoping that Albert can be around long-term.
NRL News predicted line-up
- Tom Trbojevic
- Jorge Taufua
- Dylan Walker
- Moses Suli
- Albert Hopoate
- Kane Elgey
- Daly Cherry-Evans (C)
- Addin Fonua-Blake
- Apisai Koroisau
- Martin Taupau
- Joel Thompson
- Curtis Sironen
- Jake Trbojevic
14. Frank Winterstein
15. Jack Gosiewski
16. Lloyd Perrett
17. Taniela Paseka
Coach: Des Hasler.