Winning ugly: Why Manly are the real deal

Jack Byrnes Roar Pro

By Jack Byrnes, Jack Byrnes is a Roar Pro

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61 Have your say

    It was mid-March and Trent Barrett was more than just on the ropes.

    The Sea Eagles had come away from Lottoland with their tails between their legs for the second week running after an old fashioned flogging at the hands of South Sydney. A flying start to the game which saw three tries scored in next to no time became a distant memory as the Rabbitohs began to unpick the locks of what was an embarrassingly brittle defence.

    As the fans began to leave en masse with time still ticking away on the clock, serious questions were already being asked about the boys in maroon and white. While no one really gave Manly a hope of making a dent on the competition before the season commenced, the Round 2 touch up on a sunny Saturday afternoon led many to believe they were headed for their first ever wooden spoon.

    At the same time, calls for Barrett’s axing grew louder.

    Barely 48 hours later, skipper Daly Cherry-Evans faced a firing squad at the usual Monday presser. With questions about his own poor form being left in reserve, the hungry crowd of microphones and cameras wanted to know one thing; was Barrett on the way out?

    The response from Cherry-Evans was powerful; both at the time and looking back now.

    “I don’t watch the news. I don’t read the papers so it’s not my problem,” said the halfback with a wry smile.

    Fans were left gobsmacked. Gorden Tallis was livid. This was a guy on a $10 million deal who didn’t give a stuff.

    Or so we thought.

    Fast forward to Round 3 in Townsville and Cherry-Evans orchestrated one of the biggest upsets in recent seasons. Collectively, the Sea Eagles were awesome. Ruthless in attack, relentless in defence.


    (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

    A standard was set, and after their Round 5 epic against the Roosters at Allianz Stadium finished with a Dylan Walker match-winner right on the bell, doubts surrounding Barrett’s coaching ability began to evaporate.

    Since those early rounds, Manly have continued to go from strength to strength. A payback flogging of the Rabbitohs in Round 9 highlighted their potency with the ball, while their defensive solidity has improved out of sight from last year.

    The most intriguing attribute of Manly’s rise, however, has been their ability to grind out a victory.

    To win ugly.

    Against Canberra in the nation’s capital in Round 8, the Sea Eagles were gone at 12-2 with just under half an hour left on the clock. With a bit of luck, however, Jake Trbojevic gathered a freak deflection and dived over under the sticks to get his side back in the game. Five minutes later, Manly were ahead.

    From there it was a war of attrition, with Manly showing immense grit and gumption to come away victorious in Golden Point. It was far from their best performance, but it was a vital two points.

    Games against Newcastle and more recently the Wests Tigers have followed the same theme. Well below their best, but victors none the less.

    An ability to win the tight games is also setting this Sea Eagles side apart. Two golden point victories, both against the Raiders, and the thrilling win against the Roosters highlight as much.

    Suddenly, Manly are a genuine threat. Memories of early season turmoil belong in a different lifetime as Barrett’s men continue to surge. The Trbojevic brothers will form the backbone of both Manly and NSW for years to come, and Akuila Uate might just be the buy of the year. His try against the Tigers on Sunday was nothing short of scintillating.

    For this, Barrett himself deserves an enormous pat on the back. His ability to pull discards from the scrap heap (Shaun Lane, anyone?) and milk every ounce of talent out of players such as Frank Winterstein has been highly impressive. He has also undoubtedly been one of the key factors behind the spellbinding form of the lynchpin Cherry-Evans.

    And what about his ability to stand in the face of adversity and keep on fighting? This quality has obviously rubbed off on the players.

    Exactly how the Sea Eagles turned it all around isn’t clear cut, but one thing certainly is.

    Trent Barrett can coach, and Manly are the real deal.

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

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    The Crowd Says (61)

    • July 17th 2017 @ 8:50am
      Nambawan said | July 17th 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      The strength of Manly lies with its pack which is big with players who can offload – a vital aspect in the current game. (Compare with Souths where forwards always run one out and never offload (Sam Burgess honorably excepted)).

      DCE is probably the best all round half in the comp at the present time – his defence being on a par with his other well known attributes.

      They have three brilliant running backs in Trboievic, Walker and Uate.

      Probably have a weakness on the left wing where Wright lacks pace. Rookie center Kelly also seems to lose concentration and is prone to errors.

      Manly concede too many silly penalties and lack a reliable goalkicker.

      Nevertheless Manly continues to improve as a team and play an attractive style of football.

      They should make the finals, probably within the Four.

      • July 17th 2017 @ 4:29pm
        JB said | July 17th 2017 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

        Agree with Kelly defensive lapses have seen that edge open up numerous times if that can be resolved then I think they’re a genuine shot of knocking off Melbourne. Realistically there are only 3 teams that can win it on current form, Melbourne Manly and Cronulla, I’ll excuse Cronullas last start, Bronco’s are the most overrated team I have seen in years, Thurstonless Cowboys will struggle in clutch moments come September and there is daylight to the other teams?
        I think losing Tafua has hurt Manly though he was always a solid 150m a game great coming out of his own end on Kick returns. I worry about having no genuine goal kicker too

    • July 17th 2017 @ 9:38am
      Haradasun said | July 17th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      I am liking how they are always looking for 2nd phase play. Players seem to know their roles which is giving players confidence both in themselves and in each other. All in all they look like a group who are enjoying playing together and you have to give the coach credit for that.

    • July 17th 2017 @ 9:55am
      kk said | July 17th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      Hi Jack,

      In racing parlance … when I saw Manly trial at Gosford they went straight into my black book.

      They have exceeded expectations, getting better and better. Grand Finalists 2018. Get On!

    • July 17th 2017 @ 9:56am
      Jack's Dad said | July 17th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

      Yesterday’s performance by Manly was patchy at best. When they were good they were very very good but when they were bad they were Woeful. If they can manage to put together 70 minutes of their best in a single game they will be serious contenders this year. I fear young Kelly is not up to standard. He is far too inconsistent and will be mercilessly targeted from here on in. But yeah Uate is a revelation this year. Up there with the best deal in rugby league since South’s managed to offload Sandow to Parramatta for more than the price of a bus fare.

    • July 17th 2017 @ 10:00am
      Haradasun said | July 17th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      1 out one back ready to straighten for the run home!

      • July 17th 2017 @ 12:42pm
        KingCowboy said | July 17th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

        Please don’t me the great Haradasun is a Manly fan. Great horse, rubbish team!!!

        • July 18th 2017 @ 5:01am
          madmax said | July 18th 2017 @ 5:01am | ! Report

          Better than the rubbish team you follow! Grow or even better…..disappear!

    • July 17th 2017 @ 10:22am
      The eye said | July 17th 2017 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      Aku isnt the buy of the year,Blake Green is..take him out and put Dylan W. there as it was last year and Cherry would be struggling,Manly would be 14th and Trent would be….somewhere less comfortable… kudos to the coaching/recruiting who’ve done much better thanlast yr.

      • July 17th 2017 @ 6:48pm
        MH said | July 17th 2017 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

        GO manly

      • July 17th 2017 @ 8:52pm
        The Spectator said | July 17th 2017 @ 8:52pm | ! Report

        Take out Green and Hastings comes into play, take out Hastings Cullen comes into play l, compition for places is good, cant say seeing the thriller splice Woods on Sunday wasn’t fun!

        • July 17th 2017 @ 10:49pm
          Jeff dustby said | July 17th 2017 @ 10:49pm | ! Report

          Yeah, I’m sure other teams are scared of Hastings and Cullen

          • July 18th 2017 @ 4:16am
            The Spectator said | July 18th 2017 @ 4:16am | ! Report

            Like they were Green,!

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