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 @ 10:29am
      Tom G said | July 17th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

      Cherry Evans has been in sublime form. His game management and captaincy is outstanding this year. Funny thing is I can remember clearly that not that long ago quite a number of the ‘faithful’ questioned the decision to retain him and let Foran go when both could not be kept. With all that has occurred over the last couple of seasons that decision is now looking inspired. Whilst I wish him well at the Dogs next year, Foran has gone backwards in the last two years which is ironic when he cited his reason for leaving as wanting to take his game to a new level. I guess he kind of did. Only pity with DCE is that he can’t be talked into renouncing his Queensland credentials despite the shabby treatment he has received from them… he would look great in a blue jersey.

      • July 17th 2017 @ 4:48pm
        silvertailboy said | July 17th 2017 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

        DCE can lead Manly until the 20’s and play for Australia at the end of each year and not have to get involved in the Qld SOO crap.

    • July 17th 2017 @ 12:40pm
      AGordon said | July 17th 2017 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

      Let’s run through the sides that Manly managed to beat “winning ugly”, according to your article; West Tigers, Canberra (twice), Newcastle, Souths and Easts. In other words, they beat exactly one side in the top 8 and at least one win would not have happened if the refs had gone to the bunker as they should.

      Notice you didn’t mention the Penrith game? Was that another example of Manly being “the real deal”?

      Glad Manly fans are delirious with their side right now; they’ll be shaking their heads with disappointment come finals time.

      • July 17th 2017 @ 2:51pm
        GuruA said | July 17th 2017 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

        Picked to make the bottom 4, currently sit in top 4 after 20 rounds. Pretty sure that is the real deal champ!

      • July 17th 2017 @ 4:06pm
        Nambawan said | July 17th 2017 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

        I thought Manly thrashed the Premiers a few weeks back??

      • July 18th 2017 @ 5:08am
        madmax said | July 18th 2017 @ 5:08am | ! Report

        Ummmm they beat Cronulla, Cowboys, Bulldogs convincingly!! Penrith…..well tell me who would have beaten them with a 14 – 4 penalty count against them? Storm beat Manly 4 points & Broncos were handed the game on a platter. 3rd on the Premiership ladder after 20 rounds sounds the real deal to me! I’m guessing your team is out of contention & so all you can do is criticize teams you envy lolol………I think you’re shaking more than your head!

    • Roar Guru

      July 17th 2017 @ 12:45pm
      The Barry said | July 17th 2017 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

      Manly are pretty good to watch. The Turbos are possibly my two favourite non-Bulldog players going around at the moment.

      DCE, Walker, Green killing it. Middle third one of the best in the comp. Spine ditto.

      I still have a nagging doubt that the edges aren’t quite up to scratch once the semis start. I’m not sold on Winterstein by a long shot and Lane can be inconsistent.

      It will be interesting to see what they do for next season with the million bucks that will be freed up by B Stewart and Matai.

      • July 17th 2017 @ 1:35pm
        Albo said | July 17th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

        Yep ! Manly are travelling very well at present. For me the Turbos are the key more so than DCE , and probably Jake T is more crucial to their campaign than the more profiled Tom T. He holds their pack together for 80 in attack & defence. With a really good spine and with Taupau giving them great go forward each week, they are hard to handle. They do have some limitations on their left side ( Winterstein, Kelly & Wright), although Tom T likes to mix it in there too, but they do have a potentially devastating right side with Lane, Walker & Uate. The other issue yet to really impact on them is an apparent limited depth of talent if some key injuries occur. But if they stay healthy they can make a real impact in September.

    • Roar Guru

      July 17th 2017 @ 1:19pm
      Nat said | July 17th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

      I’ll play devil’s advocate. I appreciate an opinion piece but I’m far from convinced they will be noticed come finals time. Every team needs an element of luck and Manly have benefited more than most this year. Let’s look at their two good wins, Cowboys and Roosters. While the Cowboys were injury depleted (no Coote or Big JT) Thurston & Morgan played – it was a good win. The Roosters, Manly won in the final minute in no small part to Mitchell essentially being uninterested (and dropped the following week). They also beat Sharks in the weekend following SOO2, as did the Titans this week. Otherwise, you’re talking Knights, Dogs, Souths, Titans, Warriors, Wests and Canberra twice plus 2 byes. None of whom are finals contenders.

      I’m far from a Many hater, I have family on the northern beaches but you should not get carried away until they consistently beat quality teams.

      • July 17th 2017 @ 2:12pm
        Sean said | July 17th 2017 @ 2:12pm | ! Report

        JT played in the Cowboys game.

        • July 17th 2017 @ 2:15pm
          KingCowboy said | July 17th 2017 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

          Yer he actually wrote that. He is talking about the mighty cows being without LoLo, hence the big JT reference!

          • July 18th 2017 @ 5:11am
            madmax said | July 18th 2017 @ 5:11am | ! Report

            Perhaps you should all cast your minds back to that clash & check the team lists……….Manly had just as many players missing so cut the bu@#$t excuses! Manly are 3rd so get over it!

            • July 18th 2017 @ 11:52am
              FairDinkumMate said | July 18th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

              Watching the game against the Tigers on the weekend just highlighted why they’ve won & lost other games – When Jake Turbo & mates are allowed to slow the play the ball, Manly look great. When they’re not, it’s not just the penalties that hurt, the whole side simply falls apart with any side coming at them quickly.

              So whether Manly are contenders or not seems to rest on how well their big guys can slow down the play the ball without getting pinged. They did pretty well last weekend, but I can’t seem them getting away with it come finals time.

        • July 17th 2017 @ 2:26pm
          Sean said | July 17th 2017 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

          Sorry, should have read on before firing off re JT.

          Not sure about your analysis though.

          I think what you’re missing is that the two losses against the other top teams Melbourne and Brisbane were close. They almost ran a big lead by Melbourne down and they’d all but won the Brisbane game before Tom T was tackled in the air – leading to a spilled ball and try and then Tafua dropped the ball on a kick return and the broncs picked it up and scored. Two gifted cheap tries to win it. Prior to that it was all Manly.

          The one major convincing loss for the year after the early loss to Soughts was against the Dragons. Other than that they’ve been impressive or thereabouts in every game.

          Whatever Mitchell’s frame of mind in the Roosters game (do you know his psychiatrist?), the point of that game was that they were more than a match for the hitherto undefeated Roosters the whole game.

          Throw it several major thrashings – bulldogs (38-0), souths (48-6), Cows and the titans (after they’d beaten Melbourne the week before) and the indications are you’ve got a pretty good team.

          • Roar Guru

            July 17th 2017 @ 4:23pm
            PNG Broncos fan88 said | July 17th 2017 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

            Cheap tries?…DCE looked lost that night at Suncorp – I would like that rematch again 1st week of the finals.

          • Roar Guru

            July 17th 2017 @ 4:24pm
            Nat said | July 17th 2017 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

            Hi Sean, my premise was: Manly need to be significantly better to be a force come finals time. Do you really want to go into detail about who & how Manly have won do you? You highlighted the Broncos, 1st try, Turbo throws the ball 10m forward. All their tries where scored in the 1st 10 mins and Tafua wasn’t a try. Turbo wasn’t ‘tackled in the air’, the ball bounced – legal tackle. You know what’s not legal, taking a dive. 79th minute DCE falling like he’d been shot denying another Bronco try. Moga dropped another over the line. So 24-14 actually flatters Manly in this instance.

            They got there against the Raiders in OT against 15 men & a fortunate strip call in their first encounter gets Manly across the line again. Did anyone mention the Knights???

            I did not say a word about Mitchell’s mental health, I said he was uninterested. The coach seen as much and dropped him.

            My point again, Manly have got the rub of the green a few times this year. If/When they beat quality team consistently I will jump on board.

      • July 17th 2017 @ 2:57pm
        GuruA said | July 17th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

        On the flip side let’s look at two crucial losses which would put Manly top of the table. First one was against Broncos at Suncorp. Had the game in complete control and led comfortably in the second half before Tom Turbo was (legally) taken out mid air almost ruining his season and the Broncos scored of that play and go on to win.

        Second look no further than the ridiculous game last week, Panthers get 14 penalties to 4 still only manage to win on goals. As Barrett said it was the unwinnable game.

        Defense wins games but if you want to know how potent this Manly side is look at the Storm game at Brookvale this year. Storm best defense in the NRL led 24-0 at halftime and Manly almost ran them down for the win.

          • July 17th 2017 @ 4:54pm
            silvertailboy said | July 17th 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

            So Nat what do you think about Trent Barrett for Coach of the year? Gotta come close given what he’s done with a severely depleted and understrength list that just about every “expert” picked for bottom four.

            • Roar Guru

              July 18th 2017 @ 12:03am
              Nat said | July 18th 2017 @ 12:03am | ! Report

              Still too far to be calling that yet. Snake and Matai are good players but well past their best. . Compare that to Cowboys, they’ve lost the number play maker and the Aust prop with really only Big JT the last rep player in the team and winning easily. I’m not denying DCE, Api, Lawence (who I thought may have got a Qld mention) and the T/Jurbo (both should’ve played Origin) aren’t playing well but the quality opposition hasn’t been there yet. Even then scrapping home against teams the should be lapping – Knights and Wests. The next 3 weeks will be key. Only 2 home games until seasons end but they will make the finals. If they are in the top 4 then – Barrett for PM!

    • Roar Rookie

      July 17th 2017 @ 2:28pm
      Joe said | July 17th 2017 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

      I really am liking what I see from Manly this year. Great coaching from Barrett who has taken some castoffs from other teams and moulded them into a very good team. I do think also Blake Greens influence can’t be understated. His kicking game and game management has allowed DCE to play his natural game. Blake also has the highest repeat set kicks which really helps a team stay on the attack and makes a big difference in a game. Aku Uate is playing his best in years…his bust and try yesterday was something that hasn’t been seen in years. I also think the forwards are laying a very good platform with Marty and the underrated Laurence setting a very good platform. The weakness as mentioned by other is that left side with Kelly and Wright. I actually think Wright has been better for Kelly than Taufua who although great with the metres was not good in defensive decision making. Wright also needs to get back to kicking goals as at the pointy end those points matter.

    • July 17th 2017 @ 3:26pm
      Wild Eagle said | July 17th 2017 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

      Put DCE in a good team with a strong pack and he is a match winner and good enough to dominate on GF day. We are seeing this year why Bozo signed him up on a big deal long term.

      By far the critical factor in Manlys good year is Bozos involvement for the last couple of years. He has built a team around the Turbo brothers and DCE in a short period with a limited budget.

      The Eagles seem to be part of a trend towards a more attacking style which has led to some great games as well.

      It’s very hard to know how the rest of the year plays out and I wouldn’t be surprised with a bit of a fade out or a surge leading to a tilt at the title. The main thing for me is that Bozo is putting together a great roster which has the potential to challenge for the next five years or more. We also have some outstanding young players in the lower grades.
      Based on history it would be a rare thing for this team to seriously challenge for the title but maybe having a few players in the team who have already won titles could be a factor in a charge this year.

      It has been interesting to compare the Eagles to the Raiders this year and the maturity shown by players like Jake and Turbo along with DCE and Marty T as well as others compared to the panicky and impatient Raiders who should be at their peak this year.

      Full marks to Trent Barrett for his role in this factor and his calm persona when things aren’t going so well. Hopefully he can stay this way.

      The calls for Barretts head on a platter were always out of order. Two games into a new season tells us nothing about the state of affairs at the seasons end and history proves this. If Barrett had a bad run with injuries again this year we wouldn’t be in the 8 again but it wouldn’t prove he couldn’t coach. Seems hard for many fans to get this.

      • July 17th 2017 @ 3:54pm
        Craig said | July 17th 2017 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

        “By far the critical factor in Manlys good year is Bozos involvement for the last couple of years. He has built a team around the Turbo brothers and DCE in a short period with a limited budget”.

        Umm, every team has exactly the same limited budget?

        The Eagles have done well to rebuild after losing some quality players over the last few years. But realistically, the emergence of the Trbojevic’s is what is holding the team together. They’ve looked ordinary when these guys are out.

        • July 17th 2017 @ 5:22pm
          Chui said | July 17th 2017 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

          He’s probably referring to still for Brett Stewart and Steve Matai.

          Probably 1.2M tied up there.

        • July 17th 2017 @ 6:21pm
          Wild Eagle said | July 17th 2017 @ 6:21pm | ! Report

          Not only are Manly still paying for Stewart and Matai they have few third party deals to help them along. The salary cap is different to the budget also as I believe Newcastle are well below the salary cap this year because of a limited budget.
          I seem to recall some good wins when Tom was sidelined.

          Ordinary was how the critics were describing Manly’s whole year at the start of the season. If Stewart and Matai were fit and well like Slater and Cronk then we would be a huge chance for the title.

          Bozo has had to fix the lower grades as well and this will filter thru in the near future

      • July 17th 2017 @ 4:32pm
        JB said | July 17th 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

        Agree on Style Manly are hands down my favourite team to watch play in 2017, threats all over the park and do all the hard stuff well. I’d love to see A Manly Melbourne GF!

      • Roar Guru

        July 17th 2017 @ 4:37pm
        PNG Broncos fan88 said | July 17th 2017 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

        With Tom T reportedly on 900k deal and his older brother on a 700k deal next year?
        And DCE currently on 1.3M, that’s close to 3mil on 3 players over the next 3 years.

        Staggering amounts really – anything other than a top 5 finish til 2020 would be major fail for DCE and the Turbo bros.

        • Roar Guru

          July 17th 2017 @ 4:55pm
          Nat said | July 17th 2017 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

          Really? Tom T on $900k. Very good but young player without rep honors yet. Is that cap money or TPA included? How can he be on more than his brother when Jurbo has captained as well?

          • Roar Guru

            July 17th 2017 @ 6:14pm
            PNG Broncos fan88 said | July 17th 2017 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

            • Roar Guru

              July 17th 2017 @ 6:21pm
              Emcie said | July 17th 2017 @ 6:21pm | ! Report

              mate, those figures are just based off what the papers report, i’d take them with a grain of salt

              • July 17th 2017 @ 6:27pm
                Chui said | July 17th 2017 @ 6:27pm | ! Report

                Yes. It even says so at the top of the page.

                That and the limited number of players listed should be a clue, but we won’t let the truth get in the way of a good bias, will we.

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

              pbf88, that’s the funniest, weirdest, rubbish link I’ve ever seen posted on the site. Thanks for making a funny day, even funnier.

          • July 17th 2017 @ 6:41pm
            Wild Eagle said | July 17th 2017 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

            Tom is on that money I believe and he would have no trouble getting that elsewhere. Fullbacks get big bickies because it is such a crucial position and Jake is just as good in his role but it is a lower paid position.

            Tom is recognised as being an international quality local Manly junior who will play for Australia and that is how every club would view him.

        • July 17th 2017 @ 5:25pm
          Chui said | July 17th 2017 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

          Where did you get thise figures from?

          DCE on $1.3?

          Your last paragraph applies to any club with players on big contracts then.

          Tamou at Penrith
          Hunt at St George next year.

          The list is endless.

        • July 17th 2017 @ 6:31pm
          Wild Eagle said | July 17th 2017 @ 6:31pm | ! Report

          If we finish sixth this it would be a major success based on any predictions at the start of the year. The major fails will be the Panthers and the Raiders unless they can make the eight and progress into the Grand Final.

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