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Manly Sea Eagles 2019 season preview

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" - Hunter S Thompson.

Manly's 2018 campaign had some serious strange about it: punch-ons and strip clubs, salary cap punishments and more mention of backyard patio furniture than rugby league's previous 110 years combined.

The Trbojevic brothers made a decent fist of it along with a few other willing customers, while front office made one hell of a mess –Trent Barrett's eventual exit the ugliest split between club and coach in some time.

And so the Sea Eagles have gone back to what they know. Des Hasler. A pro if ever there was one.

The 2019 outlook

What’s New

Hasler and not a hell of a lot else. But Des is enough to turn a club upside and right way up again – an overhaul Manly so sorely need.

Players are reporting a fierce focus on defence – again desperately needed after leaking just shy of 26 points a game to rank 16th in the competition.

Manly coach Des Hasler.
Manly coach Des Hasler. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Likewise a simplified attacking structure, but no clarity yet on who partners Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves.

Ex-Titans playmaker Kane Elgey is tipped for the job, but his struggles since suffering an ACL rupture two years ago have the jury still out.

The Draw

Hasler's return to the game is no easy ride, from round two they face the Roosters, Warriors, the Rabbitohs and Dragons across the next month.

His first clash with the Bulldogs outfit that showed him the door prompting a messy contract saga that was eventually settled out of court comes soon after in round eight at Manly.

With 13 Saturday games the Sea Eagles have a consistent schedule and a helpful run home as well. The Warriors (round 21) and Melbourne (round 24) are the only top eight sides from last year Manly face in the final six weeks of the season.

The stat that gives you hope

For the most part Manly managed to avoid losing a man to the bin in a season where it was used more than ever before, with just seven 10-minute spells handed out to the Sea Eagles last year. It didn't exactly hurt when they did though, Manly's 2.4-point positive swing while reduced to 12 was second only to Melbourne's +2.7.

What you need to know NRL Fantasy wise

Manly may have struggled for wins last season but they're stacked full of elite Fantasy talent, led by Trbojevic brothers Jake ($867,000) and Tom ($732,000), rampaging big man Marty Taupau ($852,000) and goal-kicking playmaker Cherry-Evans ($823,000). Those four should remain safe bets this year, with talented youngster Albert Hopoate ($212,000) the smokey among the rookies.

The Coach

Even more so than usual, all eyes are on the best head of hair in the game.

Pigs were tipped to fly before Hasler was sighted back at Brookvale, such was the animosity when he left amid threats of legal action in 2011.

But all's fair in love and rugby league and all has been forgotten with 'Manly DNA' the order of the day.

Hasler's final few years at Canterbury were tough on the eyes and the results. And they'll be brought sharply back into focus if Manly have a rough trot early.

Soward's Say: 2019 Manly Sea Eagles

Contract Matters

Noel Cleal has a full plate as he takes on the Sea Eagles roster once more. First up is Dylan Walker, whose final year of a big money contract is clouded by a court date and serious domestic violence charges.

Also off-contract are Joel Thompson and Jorge Taufua among a host of fringe first graders and promising youngsters. Moves are already being made to shore up the futures of the Trbojevic brothers (both off-contract in 2020) while Taupau will be a free agent come November 1 as well.

The Burning Question

What does Des do with Manly's roster?

More than any other team in the competition, the Sea Eagles salary cap is skewed toward big names Cherry-Evans, the Trbojevic brothers, Taupau and Walker.

The balance worked in 2017 and took them to the finals under Barrett, but a serious lack of depth was exposed when injuries took their toll in 2018. How long Manly keeps taking that gamble is a critical call for the new regime.

Representative bolter

Apisai Koroisau. Brad Fittler is an unabashed fan of the Manly rake and he showed plenty early last year before breaking his foot in June.

Koroisau will be hard pressed shifting Damien Cook from the NSW No.9 jumper and has his own defensive issues to work on (Koroisau averages 4.5 missed tackles a game across three seasons at the Sea Eagles), but stranger things have happened.

The player you should follow on social media

Joel Thompson has been prominent across social with the work that he does out in the community. The Manly second-rower facilitates The Mindset Project which advocates for people's mental well-being and social justice.

Amongst his passion of sharing important messages the 30-year-old also shows plenty of gratitude for his inspiration, his two gorgeous daughters and wife Sammy.

 
 
 
 
 
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Shit loss last night but definitely good times coming this season. . Big thank you to my beautiful Wife & girls minus 1 for making the trip for the game ❤️ 🦅

A post shared by Joel Thompson (@_joel.thompson_) on

The quote

"It's a lot of fun… Physically they're all ripped to the s---house and I come back looking like sloppy joes. But other than that it was just really upbeat. Just everything in the football world, the football structures, everything just seems a lot simpler. Everything just seems to roll smoothly which is awesome and is really refreshing." – Marty Taupau on the transition at Manly under Des Hasler after he returned late to pre-season following New Zealand's UK tour.

Arrows indicate players who signed after the submission of initial rosters on November 1, 2018.