Manly Sea Eagles Mid-Season Report
Players to Watch and Predictions from Northern Beaches Sports Fan Dave Keogh
THE DRUM - By Dave Keogh
What a weird and wonderful NRL competition we have in 2012. I was going to write this story last week after the Melbourne match at Brookie, but find myself filing my report a day after the Sea Eagles’ most comprehensive victory of the season – 52-14 over the hapless Roosters.
(Image Above Right: T-Rex and Snake in top form against the Roosters in Round 16)
I don’t really know what to make of this Manly team in the new Geoff Toovey era. I’ve watched enthralled as they’ve played magnificently to beat top teams like the Broncos and Bulldogs… and thrilled to the way they belted Easts yesterday. But I’ve also watched displays like that against the Titans at home and the losses against Parramatta and Penrith, in absolute despair.
I know we haven’t had our top side on the park all season… but seriously, we should have at least a further six points in the bank at this stage of the season – and that could make a huge difference come September under the new McIntyre system, which sees teams placed 5 through 8 facing sudden death matches right from the start of the play-offs.
Steve Matai breaks through. Photo: Phil Hillyard, SMH
At our best with all players available, there’s no risk we can beat anyone in the Comp. - and that includes the Storm, Broncos and Bulldogs. Kieran Foran is a legend in the making… such a competitor, a great defender and a ball-playing No. 6 not afraid to take it to the line. Jamie Lyon has to be THE most consistent player in the NRL. He’s playing better than ever and never has a bad match, even when the team effort overall is below par. If T-Rex can stay fit (and stay clear of the Judiciary), he’s an absolute game-breaker up front. (Why did we ever play him as a winger?)
Brett Stewart’s getting right back to his best. The confidence he’s regained since his selection in the Blues Origin side is evident every time he takes to the paddock now wearing maroon and white. The one tackle he missed against Melbourne that resulted in a try to the Storm is about the only error he’s made in defence all year… and his attack is looking really sharp again too. (I just love seeing him loom up in the backline and throw the long pass to an unmarked winger.)
So… WHY HAVEN’T WE RE-SIGNED SNAKE AS YET? He wants a four-year deal, the club has offered him three… for God’s sake, hasn’t management learned anything from the Des Hasler debacle?
This guy’s been one of if not our best player ever since debuting in the top grade. He’s still playing brilliantly… suffice to say he’s been selected as the best fullback to represent New South Wales at Origin level this year and has been a standout in the two Origin clashes so far. If he wants four years, give him four years! He should be an absolute priority. Apart from anything else, his re-signing will shore up the rest of the team. We’ve already lost T-Rex and Whare (as well as lesser lights Oldfield and Lussick)… and that’s more than enough ahead of next year.
Snake’s brother Glenn is also an inspiration every time he takes the field. Let’s hope this latest injury he suffered against the Storm heals in a hurry… we need him back. I love the ultra-aggressive Steve Matai. I know he can cost us a penalty here and there, but he gives the team so much mongrel out wide and makes amazing metres from dummy half, time and time again.
Dean Whare is all class… (can’t believe we’re losing him to the Panthers in 2013). Doesn’t matter where he plays in the backline, he delivers every time. Up front, Anthony Watmough has grown a leg this year and is back to his absolute tackle-busting best… and Matty Balin is playing like the winner he is. Along with ‘Killer’, he’s our most consistent player. The old stager Joe Gulavao never lets us down off the bench while youngsters like Jamie Buherer and Daniel Harrison give great hope for the future.
Daly Cherry-Evans is a little below last year’s form, but still providing some great spark when we need it with both his running and kicking game… and he’s a much better player when Kieran Foran’s on the park. Jorge Taufua is doing a great job in place of the Wolfman too, while ‘the other George’ (Rose) looks fitter than he has since last year. Together with ‘the Two K’s’ (Kite and King), Georgie’s laying a great platform for us when he comes on.
T-Rex – unstoppable against the Roosters - Photo: Brett Costello SMH
As for the other teams in the Comp., Melbourne and Dessie’s Bulldogs surely pose the greatest threats to our title defence. Des is already a shoe-in for Coach of the Year in my book. (How did we let him slip through our fingers again?) He has the Bulldogs playing like… well, like Manly’s two premiership winning teams from ’08 and last year. Tough and uncompromising defence and clever attack based on trust in your team mates. The Broncos are an awesome young side, capable of winning the Premiership on their day… but I think we still have the wood on them for at least this year.
Souths are great to watch, particularly with Inglis at fullback and their new No. 7 has been a revelation; but they’re still a little up and down for mine. With another year under new coach McGuire, they’ll be more of a threat. The Cowboys are the dark horses of the comp. Watching them beat the Broncos 2 weeks ago, they looked absolutely stunning - mind-blowingly good.
The Sharkies are having a great season but I just don’t see them being able to compete with the teams mentioned above when it comes to the big matches at season’s end. It’s been too long since they’ve experienced that kind of pressure. And the Tigers, Warriors and Dragons can all play on their day, but as with The Sharks, I don’t think they’ll win the big matches in the Spring. The rest you can forget.
You heard it here first… GO MANLY!!!
To read Dave Keogh’s blog, go to: http://doubledrummer.wordpress.com
Our Manly columnist Dave Keogh has been a professional writer for some 30 years, contributing to publications as broad as Modern Fishing and Outdoor. He honed a passion writing a regular column – Talking Tennis – for The Manly Daily. With a varied history including work as a music industry publicist, theatrical agent, band manager, poet, editor and tennis coach, he found his niche in advertising, and with loads of awards under his belt, Dave went into business on his own and now runs several very successful businesses, including an online community connecting sport-loving people – http://www.doubledrummer.com/ Most importantly, Dave loves sport, and is an avid supporter of The Manly Sea Eagles …