Manly’s drubbing of the Sydney Roosters, a team beset with some of the worst injury tolls in recent history, hides some serious work that needs to be done ahead of the preliminary final against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Sure, it was a great win. As a Manly fan I’m thrilled. But we’re also here to win premierships, not semi-finals, and as a fan I know we’ve got some big work to do.
Here are some of the key stats:
More worryingly against Adam Reynolds and co is that Manly conceded three forced dropouts on their line. While the scramble was magnificent on the tryline, Manly wasn’t up in defence in key moments.
To win the competition, Manly has to lift in some key areas that the scoreline was hiding.
The kick chase is the key. Daly Cherry-Evans had one of the best kicking performances of the season and is consistently delivering with the boot. Manly had a total of 668 kick metres, many of them delivered by DCE. In many ways kick chases should be Manly’s strength with a fast, agile backline and fit forwards who are fairly nimble.
Yet time and time again Manly seem to let brilliant kicks go wasted. We need to lift here, designating our fast men to target and pin opposition numbers in the corner. With Jaxson Paulo and Blake Taaffe doing the work at the back for Souths, chasing and pinning will be key to winning field position. No Latrell Mitchell means Souths kick returns will be weaker. But we can only capitalise if our line speed and kick chases show the effort and desire worthy of DCE’s kicking game.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: our error rate is too high.
Manly’s rate of errors, particularly in our forward pack, is simply too high. Josh Schuster delivered another two errors without ever really threatening. Tightening his game and ball carries will go a long way to reducing the rate of errors conceded.
To win, those errors need to be squashed. It’s obvious Schuster isn’t going to be benched, but perhaps his game needs to be simplified. Carry the ball with two hands, run straight at the line and only no-look when you’ve drawn two defenders. Simple rules might at least bring the error rate down and simplify how Schuster plays.
We need our forwards to aim up. It’s cliche to say forwards win a match, but in this case there’s no doubt that keeping Cody Walker and co 15 metres away from the tryline is critical. Our forwards need to win field position – it’s that simple – or Walker will tear defences to shreds like James Tedesco tore the left edge of Manly apart.
The key here might be to bring in Taniela Paseka earlier. Paseka is a big, agile forward with a lot of movement early. Bringing him in running at Cam Murray and Thomas Burgess might at least wear those two down and make bringing Taupau on better. I’d also be tempted to look at Tof Sipley for this game if only to have a more agile mover against Cam Murray, who is one of the best defenders in the game today.
All in all, it should be a cracking match. I think Manly can win but only if we chase hard, reduce the forward pack errors and wear down Cam Murray and Burgess in the middle.