Parramatta's thrashing of Manly in the opening round of the 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership provided plenty of talking points on and off the field.
Is this the time Manly finally start to crumble?
With all the usual provisos that we're only one game into a very long season, the early signs certainly weren't good for Manly. In fact it's hard to think of a worse night in the history of the northern beaches club. They got towelled up by their bitter cross-town rivals, received confirmation star half Daly Cherry-Evans is Gold Coast-bound, lost promising youngster Clint Gutherson for the season, and their forwards got monstered. People love writing Manly off and Manly love proving them wrong. Supposed divisions have only seemed to galvanise the club in the past. With the likes of Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart gone, Cherry-Evans going and Foran potentially to follow, it just feels a little different this time. From Toovey's point of view, he'll at least be hopeful of welcoming back the likes of Steve Matai and Jamie Buhrer in the coming weeks.
The Eels are still "post-Hayne" – but not for long
One of the huge stories over the off-season was the departure of Parramatta's superstar fullback Jarryd Hayne to the US to try and crack it in the NFL. Given the rare games Parramatta have won over the past few years largely seemed to be on the back of huge efforts from Hayne, this was understandably a cause for concern. This week they posted their first "post-Hayne" team lists, then they played their first game of the "post-Hayne" era. The great man himself was even on hand to address the crowd at half time. Either side of that, Parramatta blew Manly away to the tune of 42-12. It may never be a case of "Jarryd who?" but if the Eels keep producing this sort of performance on a regular basis we won't be talking about the fact that it's the post-Hayne era for much longer.
Brad Arthur is a hard marker. Which is perfect.
Brad Arthur is the type of coach players just want to play under. Anthony Watmough is a case in point but the rest of Arthur's charges have been similarly glowing about his thoroughness and professionalism. A case in point was Arthur's genuine disappointment at Parramatta's first-half efforts. Despite running away with a 30-point win, Arthur had the look of a man fronting up after a huge defeat.
"Our attention to detail and the simple fundamentals of the game, it wasn't good enough, we can't continue to play like that," Arthur said. "We completed at 67 percent compared to their 80, they had more possession than us. At one stage there they had 46 play-the-balls attacking our tryline compared to our 10."
He's right though. One gets the impression that if the Eels had produced a similar first half against the Rabbitohs side that showed up on Thursday night in Brisbane, they'd have been given an absolute hiding. This time last year the Eels were celebrating a Round 1 thrashing of the Warriors but still missed the finals. They need to improve further to be anything close to finals contenders and Arthur knows it.
No love lost in old rivalry: big hits abound
There has been no shortage of feeling in Manly v Parra games for a long time, and Anthony Watmough's presence brought this one to a new level. A case in point: some of the monstrous shots on display. This game was as physical as any Round 1 game in memory.
Darcy Lussick produced a monstrous shot on Brenton Lawrence to knock the ball free, leading to the first try, but arguably most impressive was 19-year-old Cook Islander Tepai Moeroa, who absolutely dominated the middle of the field. With his flowing locks he looked almost like a hunter in the wilds, and Sea Eagles forwards were his prey.
Without getting carried away, Arthur welcomed the intent his side showed in defence.
"We needed to have a more physical presence when we played this year and that was the start of it but it's round one and there's still a long way to go," he said.
Watmough himself went off briefly after being the victim of a lifted knee from mate James Hasson, but he insisted there was nothing in it.
"I was just winded, I didn't know what happened. I didn't know that I got kneed. They [the ribs] still feel like they're pushed back to my spine. I know Hass really well I know he wouldn't have done it on purpose; probably just a knee jerk reaction there was no malice in it from him," he said.
Unexpected injuries can cruel a team's chances
We're certainly not suggesting the unfortunate early injury to Clint Gutherson was the only reason Manly lost, but the pace and physicality of the game with 10 interchanges means teams can ill-afford to carry insurance policies on the bench in the form of a spare outside back. Sadly, promising youngster Gutherson seems like he may miss the rest of the year but in terms of Friday night's game it meant Manly back-rower Tom Symonds spent close to the whole game in the centres, new face Blake Leary played almost the entire game, Manly's defensive structures dissolved and they were short a forward on the bench for the game. At one stage after Kieran Foran went off hurt (with the game already well beyond their reach) rangy forward Jesse Sene-Lefao found himself on the wing.
There is certainly an argument for a tweak to the interchange rules to allow for teams to replace injured backline players with a like-for-like player. Out of favour winger David Williams warmed up with the team; had he been allowed to sub on for Gutherson at least the two sides would have played out the match on level terms.