By claiming victory for an Australian team for the first time in six years in last weekends World Club Challenge, the Manly Sea Eagles have fired out an early warning to rival clubs that they haven’t let any complacency creep into the camp over the off-season.
Back-To-Back, Can It Still Be Done?
No team has won back to back premierships in the last decade and it has become a much more difficult achievement than in previous eras. The days of the rugby league dynasty would appear to be over – just don’t tell the boys from across the bridge.
Compared to the high player turnover seen at some other clubs, Manly has managed to retain the core of the team that was so dominant during the second half of season ’08. The most obvious loss has been Steve Menzies, with three of his team mates following him to colder climates.
Replacements have arrived in the form of a couple of signings with great potential in Chris Bailey and Tony Williams. While neither of these is an established match winner, they have the potential to do great things this year in a team that will create plenty of opportunities to impress.
Manly fans will be quietly rejoicing at the announcement of Tim Sheens as the next Australian coach. Des Hasler was on the short list but is now able to focus his attention on doing what no other coach has done since Wayne Bennett in 1998-99. He has quickly developed a reputation as one of the more astute coaches in the game
Along with Brisbane and the Storm, Manly will be hit hard by the mid-season representative fixtures. They have managed to avoid this in the past couple of years, with their players flying under the radar. They are well and truly out in the open now with four of the squad making their debut at international level last year. You would expect somewhere between five and seven of the Manly squad to feature during the State Of origin series this year depending on form and injuries.
Plenty Of Strengths, Very Few Weaknesses
110-12…that was the for and against for the Sea Eagles in last year’s post-season. It takes a complete team to rack up those sort of numbers. Attacking options aplenty are combined with a tireless defence. Rivals looking for weaknesses will need to do their home work because they aren’t readily apparent.
The bookies have installed Manly as pre-season favourites, with the Melbourne Storm close behind. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Melbourne drop down in the betting early on in the season, but it is very hard to see Manly getting off to a slow start and they are definitely the team to beat this season.
Current Odds To Win The Premierships – $4.25