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'We don’t want to do what everyone else does': How 'live attack' became Manly's mantra for 2024

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2nd February, 2024
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If you walk through NRL training facilities, you’ll usually catch a few big motivational posters that give you an insight into what the team’s mottos are for the year.

At Manly’s Brookvale base, one phrase jumps out: ‘live attack’.

Anthony Seibold’s side were very unusual in the way that they approached the game last year, with a clear willingness to challenge established norms with ball in hand.

That manifested in the famous attempted kicking duel against Penrith at 4 Pines Park last year, but it was there all along, either through high speed transitions or through almost deliberately surrendering contests to find fast rucks, enabling their rapid outside backs to get into the game as often as possible.

Most notably, Manly actually improved in that part of their game as the year went on despite losing superstar Tom Trbojevic midway through and other key attacking options later on, with only halfback Daly Cherry-Evans left to run the show.

In Seibold’s first year as coach, it was as if the system and style was the most important aspect, something to be leaned into further even when personnel dropped out.

The Roar raised this at Seibold’s first media appearance of the year, with the coach explaining what ‘live attack’ meant to his team.

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“We tried to play a little differently against Penrith last year, we got criticised for that because we didn’t quite get the result but I thought we showed some things and that we don’t want to just do what everyone else does,” he said.

“We’ll continue to try to add to our game. We’ve got some great attacking weapons so we want to show them and play to our strengths.

“Of course we’ve got to look at all the other parts of our game like our defence, and we want to improve that as well, but we’ve got weapons on both sides and we want to keep attacking as best we can.

“We’ve got good guys in Chez and Tom and some speed too, so it’s a good opportunity for us.”

The focus on expansive play is partly a reaction to how the game is going, with rules changes incentivising attack and faster players, but also an effort to make Manly stand out from the rest of the pack and get the most out of the roster they have.

“One of the things that the NRL have done is try and create more continuity and less contests in the game,” said Seibold.

“We’ve brought back that contest this year with the short kickoffs, so we’ll think tactically about what we do there, but I think everyone wants to see exciting footy.

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“If you see the Grand Final, I think there were 50 points scored and some fantastic attack from both sides.

“If we’re going to break this cluster of teams, we’ve got to be outstanding on both sides of the footy. We’ve got weapons on that side but we have to be consistent, and that’s what preseason is about and we feel like we’re making some gains.

“We’ve got some superstrengths that maybe other teams don’t have, but every team’s got their own strengths. We want to play good attacking footy and be live with our attack. I’m looking forward to being able to practice that in pre-season and put it into play.”

Luke Brooks of the Wests Tigers

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Key to Manly’s attacking plans will be the form of Luke Brooks, their big off-season recruit, with Seibold conscious of the environment that that the five eighth left at the Tigers.

“One of the things I wanted to do with Brooksy was make him feel like he belongs here at Manly,” he said.

“We run a really thorough program for any new player who comes to our club. We wanted to put our arms around Brooksy and welcome him to our club. We feel like we’ve done a good job with that with him.

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“Having copped a few punches around the face myself over the last few years as a coach, I understand where he’s coming from and I have empathy for what he’s had to go through.

“We just wanted him to come here and do his job. Chez, Turbo and Jakey (Trbojevic) are the faces of our club. Brooksy doesn’t need to be that. He just needs to do his job and compete really hard.”

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Another big change will be the move of Josh Schuster from the 6 jumper into the backrow. That took an early knock as the player – and several staff – went down with chicken pox, which was compounded by a broker finger and, just this Monday passed, a recurrence of the calf problem that plagued him last year.

Nevertheless, Seibold said that the Samoa international would be back running within a week and should be ready to face the Roosters in the Pre-Season Challenge on February 17 ahead of the season opener in Las Vegas, despite rumours that he had not trained in months.

“I’m not sure where the narrative around him not having trained for eight weeks came from, but that’s not true. He’s been training the whole time,” said the coach.

“He did pull up sore with a calf injury on Monday, but he’s been able to do all off-field conditioning. We expect him to play against the Roosters, and then we’ll go from there.

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“We’ve all been 22 and it’s a challenging period of life where you still don’t know yourself too well. He’s been in the spotlight for a couple of years now and it is hard for him.

“It’s challenging that every move or every training session he doesn’t perform in or participate in is in the paper. We’ll just take our time with him.”

“I hope to see Schuey play against the Roosters and I’d like to see all our guys competing for spots to play in the first two trials, which they’ll all have the chance to do.

“I feel like he’ll perform well and be on the plane to Vegas with us. We know we’re a better side when he’s in and around it.”

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