Sea Eagles 2015 season review
When you have made the finals every year for a decade, anything short of a top eight finish is an abject failure. With success comes high expectations and Manly certainly didn't hit their own lofty standards in 2015. The club has endured one of its toughest seasons of the modern era with highly publicised contract sagas involving their biggest players, the sacking of their coach and club legend Geoff Toovey and a late but ultimately helpless last throw from a champion side to make the finals. 2015 will be forever remembered as the changing of the guard at the northern beaches club, when their era of dominance crashed dramatically back down to earth.
Where They Excelled: Daly Cherry-Evans put off-field issues behind him to remain one of the game's best halves, while the old guard of Brett Stewart, Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai also showed they are still a potent force with ball in hand.
Where They Struggled: A late-season charge showed what could have been for the Sea Eagles as they claimed some high profile scalps on a 6-1 charge, but it was too little too late and served as a painful reminder of their slow start to the season. The first half of the year was a horror showing for Manly as they struggled to contain the bigger forward packs of the competition and suffered from uncharacteristically soft defence in the middle and on the edges. The Sea Eagles started the season 2-8 with both victories coming over the Melbourne Storm. In total, the Sea Eagles spent 10 weeks anchored to the bottom of the ladder, a rare position for a club who has never won a wooden spoon since their inception in 1947.
Missing In Action: Manly was a walking casualty ward at the start of the year and it affected them greatly. Jamie Buhrer, Clinton Gutherson and Luke Burgess were all lost for the season, while Kieran Foran was injured in the opening game of the season in a disappointing loss to Parramatta. Brett Stewart spent time on the sidelines, as did Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai, and Brenton Lawrence.
Turning Point: With everything finally starting to go right for the Sea Eagles, a shock loss to Parramatta at home in Round 24 ultimately cost them a chance to make their 11th consecutive finals appearance. While there were other 'what-if' moments including a last-minute loss to the Cowboys in Round 12 after leading the whole game, and a speculative 35-metre field goal from Panthers fullback Matt Moylan that consigned the Sea Eagles to another loss at Brookvale Oval in Round 10. But the loss to the lowly Eels would prove fatal to Manly's 2015 season just when it looked like they'd come back from the grave.
Hold Your Head High: Daly Cherry-Evans starred for the Sea Eagles despite his highly-publicised contract saga, while the club unearthed two superstars in the form of brothers Jake and Tom Trbojevic. Tom set the Holden Cup alight with scintillating performances, before taking to first grade with equal aplomb, while older brother Jake had a breakout year and looks to be one of the best prop prospects in the competition.
2016 Crystal Ball: Manly venture into the great unknown in 2016, a new coach in Trent Barrett, who will bring his own coaching staff and a bold new philosophy to the northern beaches. Barrett is untested at NRL level, so it will be interesting to see how he fares, knowing full well the pressure will be on from the outset after club legend Geoff Toovey was moved on to make way for the rookie coach. The signing of Penrith hooker Api Korisau has also indicated a new direction for the club with two-time premiership winning hooker Matt Ballin seemingly out of favour. While captain Jamie Lyon reminded everyone that he is the premier centre in the game with a vintage run of form at the backend of the year, there is no denying Manly's classy outside backs are getting older. Add the fact that tough-as-nails five-eighth Kieran Foran is off to the Eels, there are certainly plenty of questions surrounding Manly. The club will look to add some fresh faces, but will hope the off-field issues that dogged their 2015 campaign are well and truly put to bed before 2016 rolls around.
Conclusion: It was a changing of the guard for Manly, a year where an era of dominance finally came to an end. They lost stalwarts Anthony Watmough (Eels) and Glenn Stewart (Rabbitohs) and struggled for a large chunk of the season. They now lose Kierran Foran (Eels) and coach Geoff Toovey.
Position (after 26 rounds): 9th
Home Record: 6-6
Away Record: 5-7
Longest Winning Streak: 4 matches (Round 20-23)
Longest Losing Streak: 5 matches (Round 3-7)
Players Used: 29
Tries Scored (after 26 rounds): 84
Tries Conceded (after 26 rounds): 88