In his ongoing series of season reviews Daniel Nichols today looks back on the Manly Sea Eagles season.
Fan Prediction: 4th
Where It Went Right: When Manly lost Trent Hodkinson to the Bulldogs, fans were worried they had lost a long term partner for Keiran Foran, however as soon as Daly Cherry-Evans hit the NRL first grade scene, any worries were well and truly put to rest. DCE missed out on the Dally M medal by a small margin, as he became a bench weapon for both the Maroons and the Kangaroos in their successful campaigns. Partner in crime Kieran Foran was named New Zealand’s player of the season and had a brilliant World Cup, which backed up, perhaps his best season to date. They now form the most lethal halves combo in the competition.
For their superstar halves to run wild they need a good platform laid by their forwards, and more times than not, that’s exactly what they had. Brent Kite may be the bargain signing of 2014 for the Panthers as he had yet another brilliant season for the Eagles. Glen Stewart’s return from injury provided a spark that was sorely missed in the early rounds of the season. Anthony Watmough and unheralded stars Lawrence, Horo, Symonds and Fa’aoso all combined to form one of the best forward packs in the competition.
Manly’s halves were awesome all season, their forwards were dominant and their outside backs were pure class. Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai are still amongst the game’s elite, with Lyon earning yet another centre of the year award. David Williams finished atop the try scoring charts with McManus and Simmons, whilst you have to believe if Tafua hadn’t missed 2 games through suspension he may have finished outright top try scorer. The Eagle’s ability to find and develop unheralded players from other clubs and turn them into stars was unmatched in 2013.
Where It Went Wrong: It’s hard to criticise a team that was only a brilliant 20 minute period of play away from being crowned NRL Premiers of 2013. Manly’s on field problems are minimal but unfortunately for the fans and players alike, the board room troubles show no signs of going away anytime soon. Major stakeholders in the club have been at each other for far too long now with post match functions moved away from the League’s Club due to bans handed out to board members. The club and fans deserve better and hopefully those involved in the off field dramas are able to find a way to sort out their differences before it tears the club apart.
On field, the Eagles were brilliant all season, but their problems may be felt in 2014. Brent Kite has moved to the Panthers, Joe Galuvao has retired and cult hero George Rose has gone South to the Storm leaving the Manly front row stocks looking extremely thin. Club legend Jason King still hasn’t started training after his injury meaning the Eagles will be relying heavily on younger front rowers. Richie Fa’aoso’s off field problems may mean he misses some of, if not all of the 2014 season
We tipped the Eagles to win the Grand Final and at halftime we were feeling pretty good about that prediction, but unfortunately for the Eagles, they were simply outplayed by a better side. Sonny Bill, James Maloney and co. put together a 20 minute period the fatiguing Eagles simply couldn’t keep up with. David Williams was beaten in the air by the much taller and in form Tuivasa-Sheck and Jennings was able to beat the out of position winger to score a brilliant try to secure victory and the title.
Verdict: A brilliant season for the Eagles that ended one game short of the ultimate victory. Manly predicted Manly would slide in 2013 and were left red faced as Cherry-Evans and Foran led a northern beaches assault that on any other day may have netted the club another title. Jamie Lyon seems to get better with age, whilst Watmough, Stewart and co. continue to shine. Brett Stewart had a brilliant season and formed a dangerous back three with Williams and Tafua, who could very easily play Origin in 2014. Fans were obviously disappointed with the grand final result, however no one can consider 2013 as anything but a huge success.
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