The reigning NRL premiers have endured a very public transformation in the offseason, but the message coming from the Sea Eagles is clear: write us off at your own peril.
With the much publicised move of dual premiership-winning coach Des Hasler to the Bulldogs, taking with him a contingent of backroom staff, it has been a less than ideal preparation for a title defense. But newly appointed coach Geoff Toovey maintains that the status quo at the Northern Beaches will remain the same.
There is no denying that Hasler is a tough act to follow.
Under his reign, Manly was transformed into one of the most dominant teams of the modern era. The Sea Eagles appeared in three of the last five grand finals – winning two of them. And when they didn’t make rugby league's grandest stage, they were knocked out by the eventual premiers.
It’s quite a legacy, one that Toovey is hoping to carve out for himself.
“It is a great opportunity for me and a great honour,” Toovey told NRL.com.
“Legends of the past have coached the Manly side and hopefully I can do the club justice and hold my head high.
“It is an exciting time and I’m looking forward to it.”
There is no doubting that Toovey is his own man and will bring his own style to the silvertails coaching job. A super tough competitor in his playing days, including 286 matches for the Sea Eagles, Toovey has been in and around the Warringah system for decades and declared not much would change in the near future.
Toovey’s message is simple: Manly are still the same team, they will still strive for consistency and they will still take some beating in 2012.
“It is something that has happened very quickly here,” he said.
“The head coach and some of the staff left pretty quickly, so we have just been trying to maintain the status quo. We were the most successful team last year winning the premiership and we aren’t going to change much from last year.
“Of course I will put my own stamp on the team, but it may take a while. Obviously it has all happened very quickly and I will take my time about putting my own twists and turns on things, but it has been a successful side and we don’t have to change too much to remain successful.
“We have a great squad, a great set of individuals, there are a few changes from last year, but not that many. I think you can expect the same level of consistency as you saw last year.”
Toovey will start his tenure at the helm of the Sea Eagles under a baptism of fire. Refurbishments at Brookvale Oval have forced Manly to play their first five games of the season on the road.
The premiers open their campaign with a grand final rematch against the Warriors in New Zealand, before facing a short turnaround against the Wests Tigers in Gosford.
It’s a daunting challenge for any coach, let alone one who has been thrust into the top job with a new support staff, but Toovey is not shying away from the task at hand.
He believes his side will rise to the challenge.
“Expectations from us and our fans is to have a good start to the year,” he said.
“It is a tough start for us with the schedule we have, but we remain confident that we do well.
“There are a lot of away games there, but we are confident that we can get a pretty strong foothold in the competition ladder and we are looking forward to being there at semi-final time.
“As the Warriors showed this year, once you make the finals anyone can get to the grand final, it is just a matter of making it there in the business time of year.”