The wounded wings of both Trbojevic brothers – and how they have healed over the off-season – will be a talking point in the early stages of the 2020 season.
Tom Trbojevic's left pectoral muscle and Jake Trbojevic's right shoulder both required surgery late in 2019.
The health of the Trbojevic duo's arms, and other limbs, are vital to the ongoing success of the Sea Eagles, even with the mystical powers of resident 'mad professor' and premiership-winning coach Des Hasler.
Tom is expected to play round one (against Melbourne) and Jake will be a 'wait and see' proposition.
From all 16 NRL clubs Manly's recruitment drive had been the quietest until Danny Levi moved from Newcastle down to Sydney's northern beaches in the last week of January. He follows a small conga line of others who have made the same journey – Ben Kennedy, Josh Perry, Akuila Uate to name a few.
They all enjoyed great success in maroon-and-white, and Levi should be no different.
He should flourish under the Hasler players' creed of "Work hard, then I want you to work harder".
The 2020 outlook
Not a lot actually, when it comes to the playing group. As mentioned above, Levi is the sole 'name' player arriving at the North Narrabeen training headquarters, although another interesting surname is Ben Trbojevic coming on a development contract. He's the younger sibling, who played centre from the NSW under-18s last year. The club does have a new CEO for 2020 in Stephen Humphreys, who was with the Wests Tigers helm for six years (2009-14) before moving to London to work for British Airways.
Five key match-ups of the Sea Eagles' 2020 draw
The Sea Eagles need to hit the ground running. They have drawn the short straw in having to face both grand finalists – and reigning minor premiers Melbourne – in the opening four rounds of 2020: the Storm at home at Lottoland, then the Roosters at Gosford, the Warriors at Lottoland and the Raiders in Canberra. The good news is that the Sea Eagles seem to have re-affirmed the foundations at their famous Brookvale ground. They turned a 4-8 record there in 2018 on its head to 8-4 in 2019 to bring back some true grit to their 'Fortress'. And that's nice to know since four of their first six rounds are at Lottoland.
The stat that gives you hope
Run metres. A breakdown of metres gained by position has the Sea Eagles above the NRL average in eight of the nine categories (wing, centre, fullback, five-eighth, halfback, second row, lock, prop, hooker) – with wing being the exception. They rank inside the top-five for four positions: centre, five-eighth, lock and prop. Addin Fonua-Blake ranked fifth across the entire NRL last year in post-contact metres, but leads the NRL in PCM per run – he makes an extra 4.25 metres than anyone else on average. Not far behind him are teammates Martin Taupau, Moses Suli and Tom Trbojevic.
What you need to know NRL Fantasy-wise
"Tom Trbojevic ($687k) piled on 100 points in a single game against the Dragons last year and can build on a season when he scored a career-low five tries. Daly Cherry-Evans ($823k) isn't cheap but is safe as houses as a starting half, while Danny Levi ($518k) looks good value as the team's new hooker and Corey Waddell ($447k) could step up for the injury-hit forward pack in the early rounds." - Lone Scout
Sea Eagles' top 5 tries of 2019
He pumped enough belief and fitness into the Sea Eagles that they rocketed from 15th on the ladder in 2018 to sixth in 2019. Des Hasler is a finals-football king. In his first stint at Manly (2004-2011) he took the Sea Eagles to seven finals in eight seasons. He returns in 2019 and picks up from where he left off, hardly being idle in between by taking the Bulldogs to five finals series in his six years there. So while the fans might be asking 'Can he do it again for us?' the players know he can. He has not only the respect but the full attention of his playing group.
Things look far more rosy since Manly is now done with the $660,000 penalty over two years (2018-19) applied to their salary cap for breaches announced in March 2018 that dated back five years previously. The bulk of the starting 17 from last season is signed beyond 2020, apart from Moses Suli, Corey Waddell and Brendan Elliott. And with no expensive off-season recruits for 2020, Manly could be well positioned to have some fun in the player market this time around. Hasler has two years left on his own deal, so there'd be no surprise if the club decided to extend him before the season is done.
The burning question
Not having a lot of fresh faces, does that mean Manly doesn't need new energy in the squad to succeed once more? Or does it mean they are putting a lot of faith in the existing squad to make that souffle rise again? Or does it simply mean they don't have the money? There's several questions there but perhaps the biggest one is whether the Sea Eagles have the depth any NRL team needs for 24 brutal games. Remember how the injuries at the back-end of last year hurt the Sea Eagles. And they start 2020 with no Manase Fainu and possibly no Jake Trbojevic or Addin Fonua-Blake (both shoulders) for a round or two.
All of Reuben Garrick's tries from 2019
Breakout player to watch
Reuben Garrick. In his maiden NRL season last year he was Manly's top points scorer (194) by a country mile. The next closest to him was Daly Cherry-Evans (64). That happens of course if you are also the club's goal kicker, but Garrick also was the top try scorer (16) – again double the next best of his teammates Jorge Taufua (8). He was rewarded with Prime Minister's XIII, World Nines and Junior Kangaroos jerseys. So after a breakout 2019, Garrick has all that experience to launch himself into 2020.
"Teams aren't underestimating us this year. So the task at hand is to make sure that every week we bring our best football and any challenge the opposition throws at us, we're up for it.
"The best teams in the competition like the Storm and Roosters are extremely good at that." – Daly Cherry-Evans, captain