A lack of consistency plagued Manly during 2016, with the club unable to generate back-to-back victories until Rounds 17 and 18.
A poor defensive record, whereby the Sea Eagles routinely gave up 30 points to top-eight opposition, rendered them incapable of making a run towards the top eight.
Retirements to three of the team’s premiership stalwarts in Brett Stewart, Steve Matai and Jamie Lyon will come as a blow to the club and their leadership and experience will undoubtedly be dearly missed. The Sea Eagles have recruited heavily in the offseason and I particularly like the additions of Blake Green and Curtis Sironen.
Green has shown himself to be a capable player at the six and will allow Dylan Walker to return to his more accustomed position at centre.
Sironen has been earmarked as a future NSW State of Origin player and could do his credentials a world of good at a Manly team which is undersized in the second row. His versatility and apt ball handling make him a handy addition to this Manly roster.
What to look for in 2017
Tom and Jake Trbojevic will continue to excel and develop and are certainly assets Manly will hope to retain for years to come. Where the team seeks to integrate Jackson Hastings will be interesting and there is a good competition within the five-eighth, halfback and hooker roles at the club.
I look for Manly to be more competitive in games in 2017, as I don’t believe their defensive schemes will be as porous as they were in 2016. With another pre-season under his belt, Trent Barrett will hopefully have further imprinted his stamp upon the clubs playing style.
Daly Cherry-Evans had a down year by his standards and those which are expected of him inside and outside of the Manly club. After attracting enormous attention in 2015 with his new contract, I believe he will improve with an experienced five-eighth such as Green by his side.
A more recent development has been the renaming of Brookvale Oval to ‘Lottoland’, which is surely one of the more farcical names given to a stadium anywhere in the world, let alone in Australia. It is more certainly a sign of the times, and indicative of the need for clubs to boost revenue in whichever way they can. Manly are said to have received a seven-figure sum for the naming rights.
Good luck to them.
The first six games of the 2017 season will be crucial to Manly. They play four teams who finished in the bottom eight last season and a Canterbury team who are regressing rather than progressing. If the Sea Eagles can finish this stretch 4-2 or even 5-1 then they will have already exceeded my expectations.
As I see things, this team will take some time to gel. They will miss out in finals again in 2017 and be primed for a run at the top eight once more in 2018.
2017 prediction: 12th
NRL 2016 record: 8-0-16 (20 points- 13th)
Ins: Shaun Lane (NZ), Blake Green (Melbourne), Cameron Cullen (Gold Coast), Akuila Uate (Newcastle), Curtis Sironen (Wests), Jackson Hastings (Sydney), Jonathan Wright (NZ), Jarrad Kennedy (Canberra), Frank Winterstein (union), Lloyd Perrett (Canterbury)
Outs: Jamie Lyon (retirement), Brett Stewart (retirement), Steve Matai (retirement), Siosia Vave (Parramatta), Jamie Buhrer (Newcastle), Josh Starling (Newcastle), Brayden Williame (Catalans), Matt Parcell (Leeds), Feleti Mateo (Salford), Luke Burgess (Catalans), Blake Leary (Townsville Blackhawks)