The Sea Eagles Of old
When Peninsula Living entered Sea Eagles camp at the beginning of the 2015 season to file a progress report they had just moved on three stalwarts in Glenn Stewart, Anthony Watmough and Jason On Despite new recruit Willie Mason pointing over Me cracks with his usual optimism and 'she’ll be right' attitude, it was clear to ‘Blind Freddy’ that the men in maroon faced an uphill battle. Fast forward past that disappointing season, in which the Sea Eagles missed the finals for the first time since 2004.and again we have reason to believe
This year, there is no talk about our big men being dwarfed by opposition packs or how the playing group is the Dad's Army of the NRL - it's a new look Sea Eagles outfit with a strong injection of both class and youth, that has pundits rating Trent Barrett's men a serious competition threat.
Sea Eagles veteran Jamie Buhrer says they are gelling both on and off the park.
“It's definitely a different feel, a different look,” he says.
"As a club we haven't had a turnover like this in a long time, that's been well documented but having said that everything is going really well from a football perspective and even off the field... they’re all a good bunch of blokes they brought in and were all settling down well.”
The grunt upfront was the side's obvious weakness last year. Felon Mateo, Willie Mason and Luke Burgess were always going to struggle to be adequate cover for Stewart, Watmough and King. However there was a shining light and it came in the form of Jake Trbojevic. The young prop was sublime throughout the season, and being a local junior, has quickly been embraced as the Hills favourite son. He will now be joined in the engine room by international recruits Nate Myles and Marty Taupau, and former Sea Eagle Darcy Lussick, in what shapes as a formidable pack. Matt Ballin’s experience will no doubt be missed at dummy-half but new recruit Api Koroisau is not lacking in that regard either, having won a grand final with the Rabbitohs as starting hooker in 2014, as well as making numerous appearances for Fiji.
In recent years, the Sea Eagles have been blessed with the talent they’ve had at their disposal out wide. Led by captain Jamie Lyon, they have boasted a plethora of out and out stars from one to seven and that is set to continue in 2016.
Sure Lyon, Steve Metal and Brett Stewart are entering the twilight of their careers but they’re all still match-winners on any given day. Then there is young Tom Trbojevic, who has set the Holden Cup alight and after another forward showing in the Auckland Nines, is expected to do the same at senior level, and of course there is the $10 million man Daly Cherry-Evans.
The well publicised loss of New Zealand international and inspirational leader Kieren Foran is a huge blow, but slotting into his number six jersey is probably the buy of the season in Dylan Walker. Still only 21, Walker was one of the Rabbitohs' best throughout their premiership winning season and has already represented Australia. He is naturally a five-eighth but still dominated at centre for the Bunnies and he says he's excited about having Lyon and Matai outside him. So it's disappointing that Foran couldn't remain a one-club player, but if Manly have the sort of season we're hoping for, there is no doubt Walker will be a major factor.
At the expense of one of the most revered figures on the Peninsula, Trent Barrett has been handed the reins of the Sea Eagles. Geoff Toovey did a credible job considering the roster he had to play with, but a club with such a decorated history only accepts success, so not making the final eight for the first time in 11 years was always going to lead to a tap on the shoulder.
Enter Barrett, in his playing days he did it all played for NSW and Australia, and won the Daily M in 2000. Of course taking on the head coaching role at Manly is a different challenge entirely but the players are behind him, and he has former Titans head coach John Cartwright in his corner as second-in-charge. "[The new coaching set up] has been great I cant fault it!" Smiles Buhrer.
"The staff have come in and done an amazing job from day one and they're all on the same page - obviously you can tell they had a bit of time to kind of plan out what they were going to do here and they've come in all guns blazing and they've got us really well prepared."