Des Hasler is back at Brookvale in 2019, along with some staff from his previous stint, to coach a squad which nobody thinks is as strong as his last year at the club, in 2011.
However, a sense of deja vu is in the air.
The Stewart brothers were key members of the title-winning 2011 team and Tom and Jake Trbojevic are just as crucial in 2019 – possibly just as good.
As in 2011, this season begins with a big question mark about the halves and the fortunes are also resting largely on a recruit from Queensland who was also largely unwanted by other clubs.
Daly Cherry-Evans was dynamic in his first year and if Kane Elgey can strike the form he was in a few years back, then the whole functioning of the backline will improve markedly.
It’s dangerous to use YouTube as too much of a guide, but Elgey’s 2015 season highlights remind me of DCE’s style.
I might be clutching at straws in the centres but Jamie Lyon and Dylan Walker are both Australian reps and Steve Matai and Moses Suli are powerful players with a Pacific Island background.
A key element in Manly’s 2011 success was the way their centres seemed to have become quicker from their early days at the club. Suli also looks a bit sluggish and if he can get leaner and quicker, then he’s the perfect counter to players like Latrell Mitchell. He did a pretty good job on the young Rooster last season with less-than-ideal preparation.
We also have another young Hopoate ready to make a statement. This time it’s Albert, who has dominated the junior scene. John Hopoate was a winger in Manly’s 1996 title win as well.
Tony Williams was dynamic in 2011 and we have another athletic giant ready to cause damage in 2019 in Taniela Paseka.
Matt Ballin had already won a title at the start of 2011, just like Apisai Koroisau did with the Bunnies.
The front rowers are bigger and stronger than the 2011 props and are easily good enough to win a title.
I can’t remember Des still trying to pretend that Manly were underdogs in 2011, but both the club and he as a coach are well under the radar in 2019.
More stability and luck with injuries will have the Sea Eagles well away from the dreaded spoon and if Des can sharpen up the defence and rediscover his ability to get a team going in attack, the top eight is possible.