Nigel Wall,, NRL.com
Expectations are high at Brookvale and there'll be some who'll consider 2012 a failure. Can the Sea Eagles turn it around in 2013?
Strengths: Andrew Johns’ appointment to work exclusively with halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran looks a shoo-in to provide the Sea Eagles with added potency. The pair would be the first to admit they dipped in form and involvement in 2012 but with Johns on board their enthusiasm levels are surely soaring as they prepare for the new season. Johns was one of the most composed players to lace up a boot and it is this vital attribute that will be of most benefit – in particular to the Sea Eagles’ kicking game.
Although they gained plenty of depth and field position in 2012, with their 16,238 metres off the foot the most by any side, Manly’s distinct lack of precision placed the players under huge pressure too often. Incredibly, Cherry-Evans and Foran managed to kick to open space just 48 per cent of the time – the fourth worst return in the NRL. With Johns’ guidance, expect the Manly halves to be more composed running their plays, which should deliver them a few precious seconds more to plan and execute their clearing kicks. And is it possible that wrecking ball Tony Williams’ departure to Canterbury could actually be a bonus for the 2011 premiers? Perhaps – after all, Manly ranked second-from-bottom for defensive efficiency in 2012, with Williams a major culprit. His dropped balls stalled their momentum at crucial times, too. Providing he can put his off-season indiscretion behind him expect winger Jorge Taufua to improve on his 2012 stats that saw him one of the best line-breaking, tackle-breaking and territory-gaining wingers in the NRL.
Weaknesses: ‘T-Rex’ Tony Williams may have made more than his fair share of errors but there’s no questioning the massive inroads he pounded out in attack. Williams’ charges, even from standing starts, wrought havoc on all oppositions; now his absence deprives the Sea Eagles of a vital dimension in attack on their left edge. The pressure will be on Kieran Foran to be more involved on the left fringe, and for ex-Eel Justin Horo to finally fulfil his huge potential at a new club (if he does, he could go down as the buy of the 2013 season).
Lack of established depth up front could also haunt Geoff Toovey’s unit – they lost much-touted duo Darcy Lussick and Daniel Harrison to the Eels over the off-season and although they have restocked with players including Brenton Lawrence and David Gower, the mention of that pair is hardly likely to strike fear into oppositions… at least yet. And Dean Whare’s departure to the Panthers and Michael Oldfield’s move to the Roosters could leave them vulnerable should injuries strike.