It spoilt the Sea Eagles' attacking opportunity after repeat sets on the Storm line.
Season 2021 was a fantasy season that started 0-4 by Manly, leaving them rock bottom of the table with -122 points difference.
A one-point win against the Warriors and Tom Trbojevic’s return really changed things for Manly, who went on to win their next three games before a loss to the 2020 minor premiers Penrith 26-16.
Manly then went shooting right up the table, finishing the regular season with 16 wins and eight losses, finding themselves in fourth spot and a qualifying final against minor premiers the Melbourne Storm.
Manly’s 40-12 loss to Melbourne set them up to face a wounded Roosters side who were dismantled 42-6 as Manly had their hands on another preliminary final berth against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
After a disappointing and frustrating game, South Sydney prevailed 36-16 and Manly’s record-breaking 2021 season was finished.
Most valuable player: Tom Trbovevic.
Most improved: Lachlan Croker.
Tom Trbojevic – 10
Tom Trbojevic gets a ten after a potential Dally M-winning season, with 28 tries and 30 try assists. Phenomenal.
Jason Saab – 8
Jason Saab gets an eight after scoring 26 tries and showing massive improvement offensively this season.
Morgan Harper – 6
Harper had a bright start to the season, pushing Moses Suli out of the side and cementing his place. But a disappointing finals series pushes him back down to a six.
Brad Parker – 6
Parker did enough to secure his spot in the side with solid defensive performances but gave Manly nothing outstanding.
Reuben Garrick – 9
Garrick had an excellent season, capped off with 334 points in the season – eight points off Hazem El Masri’s all-time point-scoring record of 342. He also scored 22 tries.
Kieran Foran – 7
Foran was the unsung hero of this Manly side, using his experience and excellent playmaking ability to put Manly over the line many times this season.
Daly Cherry-Evans – 8
Cherry-Evans had one of his best seasons for Manly this year. His excellent leadership led Manly to a preliminary final.
Josh Aloiai – 6
Aloiai had a very average season for Manly, missing quite a few games due to injury. Nothing too poor but nothing outstanding.
Lachlan Croker – 9
Lachlan Croker’s transition from the halves has been nothing short of phenomenal. He was one of Manly’s best players this season and revived his career in the NRL.
Marty Taupau – 7
He had a decent season leading the forward pack for Manly, which dominated a huge chunk of games.
Haumole Olakau’atu – 7
One of the breakout stars of Manly’s season, Haumole Olakau’atu’s season has been exceptional, especially on the attacking front.
Josh Schuster – 8
One of the rookies of the year, Josh Schuster has transitioned from the halves into the second row to cover for injuries and has been extremely impressive. His versatility and unpredictability has been exceptional. He has been one of Manly’s potent threats this season.
Jake Trbojevic – 7
Jake Trbojevic has had another fantastic season, proving once again that he is one of the best ball-playing locks in the competition plus his outstanding defence.
Dylan Walker – 8
Walker was one of Manly’s best towards the end of the season, providing that versatility from the 14 role and especially coming on as a small ball-playing front-rower throughout the back end of the season.
Karl Lawton – 6
Lawton came to Manly halfway through the season. He had an excellent start in the second row before getting limited minutes coming off the bench.
Taniela Paseka – 6
Paseka had a solid season. He didn’t exactly go as expected. Injuries had a huge impact.
Sean Keppie – 6
Keppie had a good back end of the season. He didn’t play much at the start.
Toafofoa Sipley – 6
He didn’t play much. He did well when he did.
Moses Suli – 7
Suli had a slow start to the season. He went to a new level in the back half of the season. I am extremely disappointed to be letting him go.
Curtis Sironen – 6
He didn’t play much this season due to injury and breakout young stars.
The highlight of the season
The pinnacle of Manly’s season came after a 46-18 demolition of the North Queensland Cowboys in Round 25. An in-form Tom Trbojevic produced two try-of-the-season contenders in one game and led Manly into fourth position and a qualifying final against the Melbourne Storm.
Lowlight of the season
Manly’s lowlight of the season came after the 40-point loss in Round 4 against Penrith, leaving the club rock bottom of the NRL table with minus 122 points difference. Many backed them to get the wooden spoon.
Season grade: A
They did much better than expected after an extremely slow start to the season. Manly’s defence improved out of sight this season. Manly’s attack was one of if not the best attack in the league with Tom Trbojevic. They had a top-four finish and a preliminary final.