Not much needs to or indeed has changed for Manly Sea Eagles. Last year, they surprised everyone by springing from 15th in 2018 to a top eight team in 2019 under the tutelage of Des Hasler.
They even suffered their fair share of injuries last year. But players like Reuben Garrick, who were released by other NRL clubs, were sensations. Garrick went on to represent Australia at the World 9s and in the Prime Minister’s XIII.
The one player brought in that is likely to start is hooker Danny Levi who has joined the club from Newcastle. Api Koroisau has gone to Penrith as plenty of hookers have joined the NRL transfer merry-go-round.
Dylan Walker will partner captain Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves which is a great pairing. Walker is a real running threat while Cherry-Evans is one of the best organisers in the competition.
The Sea Eagles’ pack is big. Addin Fonua-Blake and Martin Taupau have genuine size and the latter is a real offload threat. Jake Trbojevic is one of the best loose forwards around and Curtis Sironen and Joel Thompson are probably the most underrated second-row forwards kicking about.
Manly have plenty of utility on the bench in the likes of Cade Cust, Jack Gosiewski, Corey Waddell and Brendan Elliot but it’s in their starting XIII where they pose a real threat.
Coach: Des Hasler
The return of Des Hasler (above) was a huge boost to Manly Sea Eagles ahead of 2019. 2018 was a poor season for the side who languished near the very bottom of the division but last year saw a major improvement and a playoff place to boot thanks to the work of Hasler.
He got the very best out of Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves, and also the two Trbojevic brothers made up the rest of a formidable spine.
This is Hasler’s second spell in charge of the Sea Eagles after coaching Canterbury Bulldogs in between his stints with Manly.
Star Player: Tom Trbojevic
Both Trbojevic brothers are very important for the Sea Eagles, alongside Daly Cherry-Evans, but Tom (pictured, top) has got that entertaining X-factor that we all love to see.
His blinding speed and superb skill has earned him selections with both New South Wales and Australia so far in his career.
He has a useful ability to fill multiple positions in the backline but fullback is his preferred position.
Injuries have plagued his career at times but he’s still only 23 and has already racked up almost 90 NRL appearances.
Rugby League World Predicts: 8th
First published in Rugby League World, Issue 467 (March 2020)