If the NRL salary cap is meant to even out the competition, then grand finalists Manly seem capable of being more equal than others.
The Sea Eagles’ ability to consistently get the best out of their $4.3 million of talent has made them the kings of managing the cap – and the dominant force, legally, of the past decade.
Seven straight finals series, including three grand finals in the past five years, and the 2008 title are the evidence.
The cap scandal that engulfed the Melbourne Storm, who beat Manly in the 2007 decider and the Parramatta Eels in 2009, only underlines the Sea Eagles’ superior juggling act.
It’s why coach Des Hasler has been offered a reported $750,000 to join Canterbury and why recruitment manager Noel Cleal is also in the Bulldogs’ sights.
With the NRL’s talent spread so evenly, Hasler’s brilliance in motivating his side and Cleal’s ability to find talent have arguably been the difference.
When South Sydney signed Greg Inglis and Manly unveiled Daly Cherry-Evans at the start of the season, it was the Rabbitohs being mentioned in the same sentence as the word “premiership”.
Souths missed the top eight, Cherry-Evans was named Dally M rookie of the year and a Sea Eagles outfit few rated is in Sunday’s grand final against the Warriors.