Johns factor puts Manly in box seat

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Andrew Johns was announced as the eighth Rugby League Immortal. Did his selection confuse the process? (AAP Image/Action Photographics/Grant Trouville)

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While the rugby league world awaits news on Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau’s futures back in the fold, Manly Warringah has been working on a deal of its own that could snare the 2013 premiership.

Any day now the Sea Eagles will announce the addition of Andrew Johns to their coaching staff, and I believe it could turn out to be one of the club’s most important signings in its history.

I hear that league’s newest immortal will be working closely with the Manly club and in particular, improving the skills set of exciting young halves combination, Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran.

After a stellar, premiership-winning debut season in 2011, Cherry-Evans was good but not great in 2012 and having Joey in his ear on a regular basis will do him a power of good. His loose ends will become polished, silky. His team direction better plotted and more forceful.

The half-back’s often streaky kicking game should develop more variety and his linkage plays with Foran and fullback Brett Stewart have the potential to unlock the tightest defences in the league.

Foran, a Kiwi international, is rated by many to be the most consistent number six in the comp and with specialist tips from Johns he, too, could achieve as lofty a rating as that enjoyed by code benchmarks such as Thurston, Slater and Smith.

Eagles’ fans should get very excited when the Johns addition to the coaching staff becomes reality.

Joey will be able to provide a guile and sense of spontaneity that even Geoff Toovey, one of the world’s best halfbacks in his day, cannot hope to pull from his bag of tricks.

And I hear that his services will be exclusive to Manly. No rival club – not even his alma mater Newcastle – will be able to call up A. Johns for specialist coaching. He’ll be seen in maroon and white gear, nothing else.

I can picture the Johns-inspired halves engineering try after try for Manly, even from the opening game. Banana kicks, grubbers, inside balls, double pumps, dummies – who could honestly predict what Cherry and Foz will come up with on any given play?

Head coach Toovey will grant them a licence to be as inventive as possible, while adhering to his overall game plan.

Try merchant Stewart, if he can steer clear of injury, might be an excellent bet to finish as the leading try-getter in 2013 and the Eagles, for that matter, might be well worth an early flutter to go all the way and claim the title.

Manly finished one game shy of the grand final this past season. TAB Sportsbet currently has them listed at $8.

The Johns factor is going to have considerable influence on how Manly performs next season.
Geoff Toovey did exceptionally well in his debut season as senior coach, and as Des Hasler’s hastily appointed successor.

Partnered by Johns and the respected Brad Arthur, Toovey could achieve the height of heights in just his second year at the helm.

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