New Sea Eagles assistant coach John Cartwright says while it was hard to say goodbye to a premiership-winning club up in Townsville the chance to move back to Sydney, work with Trent Barrett and join a historically successful club in their quest to re-enter finals territory was too good to pass up.
Cartwright was an assistant to Cowboys mentor Paul Green last year and he said Manly's new coach Barrett shares some similarities with Green.
"I've known Trent for a long time now. He's a very cool customer and he knows the game very well and he treats men as men and I think they're probably the three ingredients you need as a coach," Cartwright said at Manly's official 70th anniversary celebrations this week.
"He's got great support around him with guys like 'Bozo' [Bob Fulton], there's plenty of experience there, Peter Peters, guys that have been around the club a long time. My job's just to support him as best I can and I know he's the sort of guy I can offer my opinion and if he takes it or he doesn't there'll be no hard feeling and that's exactly how Greeny was up at Cowboys.
"Sometimes they take your advice and sometimes they don't but the thing is it will be an open forum and I'm sure we'll have plenty of good combinations."
Cartwright said there were a raft of factors that made a move down to Manly the perfect fit despite the chance to stay at the premiership-winning Cowboys – and central to that was the added responsibility he'd have in a smaller coaching staff.
"We don't have as many coaches on staff so [there is] a little bit more responsibility and it's a club – whilst a lot of people say they don't like Manly – that's normally born out of jealousy. They're a very tough club, very resilient and it was something that I really want to be a part of.
"To come back to Sydney too and see my family down here in Sydney, it's a little bit closer to the Gold Coast, it just all made sense.
"It is a bit of challenge - Manly missed the semis last year and I think that's a benchmark for everyone is to make semi-finals and we know what can happen once you get there. Good challenge, great crop of players and looking forward to working with Trent as well."
Cartwright is also looking forward to embracing the famous Manly mentality after having been on the other side of the fence as a player and coach for so long.
"After speaking to 'Baz' the bottom line for me was it's a club I've really always admired and really respected as a player and as a coach. From the outside looking in people either love or hate Manly but they've always seemed to be in some sort of drama but the team always performs. Coming back home as well, it was just too good an opportunity to refuse," he said.
A combination of a horror injury toll – especially early in the season – and a lack of impact in the forwards cruelled Manly's finals aspirations in 2015 but Cartwright said the addition of some exciting new recruits to an already skilled and experienced roster provided the right ingredients for success.
In particular, the emergence of Jake Trbojevic and return of Brenton Lawrence from injury coupled with the recruitment of Nate Myles, Marty Taupau and Darcy Lussick means Manly's middle has gone from one of the weakest to one of the strongest.
"As far as the modern game goes, the spine is very important. You look at the one we have there - the two hookers are very exciting they've brought to the club in Api [Koroisau] and Matty Parcell. The year he had in Queensland Cup, he's got NRL written all over him," Cartwright said.
"You've got Daly [Cherry-Evans] who's won a Churchill Medal, Brett Stewart, those four and whoever we come up with as a five-eighth – and there's plenty of options there – that's the key ingredient and that's covered. We're able to put very strong team around them - the experience of [Jamie] Lyon and [Steve] Matai, to add Darcy Lussick and Nate Myles and Taupau to the team, I think we're certainly going to have plenty of go-forward for the service players."