Sea Eagles 2016 season review
The season started with so much promise for Manly fans. On paper the team looked capable of a top-four finish, but their campaign never got out of second gear. Was the team weighed down by too much expectation? Possibly, but 2016 was a changing of the guard in what must have felt like Groundhog Day for the Sea Eagles faithful. The house that Des built was not just slightly renovated; it was all but completely torched and rebuilt from the ground up. With so much personnel change, there was so much optimism at the northern beaches club, but Manly's season never really got going with a swathe of poor performances and injuries cruelling any hopes of a revival.
It was one of the most dramatic roster changes in recent memory and there were certainly plenty of high profile acquisitions with the additions of four internationals in Nate Myles, Martin Taupau, Lewis Brown and Dylan Walker. Add highly fancied hookers Api Koroisau and Matt Parcell and the return of Darcy Lussick, there was so much cause for optimism, but the promise never eventuated to anything tangible with the Sea Eagles missing the finals for a second straight year.
Where they excelled: There were not a lot of positives for Manly in 2016. The only real positive to come out of the constant chopping and changing to the squad was the emergence of several youngsters who could be stars of the future.
The development of the Trbojevic brothers, as well as the recent debuts of local juniors Brad Parker and Billy Bainbridge could be beneficial in the long run.
Where they struggled: It was another horror year for Manly with key injuries forcing constant reshuffles and the Dylan Walker five-eighth experiment not working how Trent Barrett had hoped. Statistically the Sea Eagles struggled across the park, conceding the most penalties in the league while also struggling in key metrics, tries scored (13th), tries conceded (4th most), missed tackles (5th) and errors (8th). The Sea Eagles defence conceded 41 tries on the left flank and a whopping 49 on the right.
Missing in action: It was another season of injuries at the northern beaches. Steve Matai (8), Brenton Lawrence (9) and Brett Stewart (10) all missed more than half of the season, while Jamie Buhrer and Matt Parcell only managed just 14 games. It certainly affected their fluency, especially in defence as they constantly leaked points throughout the season.
Turning point: A seven-match losing streak between Rounds 9-16 affectively ended any chance of the Sea Eagles playing in September. Losses against the Cowboys (twice), Broncos, Sharks, Raiders, Panthers and Titans demonstrated that Manly were not in the hunt against the better teams in the competition. They did manage a four-game winning streak between Rounds 17-21, but a controversial one-point loss to the Eels followed by a golden point loss to the Bulldogs stopped Manly's late-season charge in an instant.
Hold your head high: Tom Trbojevic continued to impress and stamp his quality despite carrying an ankle injury for the majority of the season that requires surgery. He is certain to be the long term fullback for Manly and has a very bright future. Brother Jake also showed that he is one of the best forwards in the NRL, the tireless lock getting through a mountain of work in the engine room. Matt Parcell made a good fist of his first year in first grade while Apisai Koroisau also impressed covering numerous positions.
2017 crystal ball: The big question for Manly is the immediate playing future of club legends Brett Stewart and Steve Matai. The pair have been instrumental in the club's two recent premierships, but have also missed large chunks of the last two seasons through injury. There is no doubt that Jake and Tom Trbojevic are the future of the club, but Manly will also need to find a replacement for Jamie Lyon and a long-term halves partner for Daly Cherry-Evans.
Conclusion: After a decade of dominance the Sea Eagles were due a few lean years, but ultimately 2016 was another disappointing season for the club. With club legend Jamie Lyon calling time on his decorated career there is certainly a new feel to the team. The spotlight will now turn to stalwarts Brett Stewart and Steve Matai as the club moves into an uncertain future. How the club handles the next phase will be vital for their 2017 campaign and beyond.
Home Record: 4-8
Away Record: 4-8
Longest Winning Streak: 4 matches (Rounds 17-21)
Longest Losing Streak: 7 matches (Rounds 9-16)
Players Used: 31
Tries Scored: 78
Tries Conceded: 99