In perhaps a round-about, begrudging sign of respect, rival NRL fans have this week continued to celebrate the struggles currently being felt at the Manly football club.

Friday night’s 30-18 loss to the Canberra Raiders continues a horror week for the Manly club, who have been battling allegations of match-fixing emanating from matches played last season.

The loss to Canberra now sees Manly well off the pace set by the likes of the Storm, Sharks and Cowboys, with just three competition wins.

Prior to the season kicking off, many ‘experts’, myself included, predicted a fruitful season for the Sea Eagles with many tipping a top four spot as a genuine reality.

Fast forward to round 12 and Manly look as though they will be flat chat competing for a spot in the eight, let alone a top four finish.

Manly’s sustained success over the majority of the last decade, including premierships in 2008 and 2011, means they probably won’t attract much sympathy outside the club, however it looks as though the golden era enjoyed at Brookvale may be over.

Despite, on paper, what looked to be a successful recruiting spree over the offseason, the Sea Eagles have failed to fire due to a variety of reasons.

The first being the inability of the club to cover the loss of Kieran Foran, whose partnership with Daly Cherry Evans saw them form one of the best halves combinations in the game.

Dylan Walker’s late recruitment from the Bunnies was seen as a solution, however Walker’s has been well below par, despite the fact he was recently selected to represent NSW in Origin One.

Walker, who had experience in the halves in his junior footy, had only played in the five-eighth position a handful of times at the top level. His performances didn’t yield great results and he has only recently started to show glimpses of his old self since shifting back into the centres.

Jamie Lyon, who will retire at the end of the 2016 season, has partnered DCE across the past two games, however an injury looks set to rule him out for a month.

Cherry Evans himself, coming off a circus-like 2015 which saw him sign a lifelong contract with Manly, has been a shadow of his former self thus far in 2016.

His form, or lack thereof, has seen fans of the Titans take to social media to proclaim they dodged a bullet, and scored big in signing Ash Taylor.

Although Cherry Evans is likely to produce extremely improved performances in the coming months and years, he has thus far failed to justify his high price tag.

Brett Stewart of the Sea Eagles during the round 13 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Manly Sea Eagles at GIO Stadium on June 3, 2016 in Canberra, Australia.
Brett Stewart of the Sea Eagles during the round 13 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Manly Sea Eagles at GIO Stadium on June 3, 2016 in Canberra, Australia.

Injuries to both Steve Matai and Brett Stewart have also disrupted the Sea Eagles season.

Both players seem to be a week-to-week proposition, and while Stewart especially still looks threatening, neither have been able to string together enough games to truly kick start their season.

With Lyon moving into the halves, three of the five backline players who have helped Manly dominate for so many years have been either largely absent, or played out of position.

Jorge Taufua and young Tommy Turbo have also missed games due to injury.

The aforementioned Walker is not the only high prized recruit to fail to deliver thus far, with Nate Myles producing a series of underwhelming efforts.

Although no one can accuse Myles of phoning it in, he really hasn’t shown the sort of destructive form that he showed for both the Titans and Roosters.

Marty Taupau has unfortunately spent just as much time in the judiciary hot seat as he has on the field, although he has been quite good during his short time in Manly colours.

With both Glenn Stewart and Anthony Watmough having been moved on over the past few years, the Sea Eagles forward pack is almost unrecognisable when compared to the pack that lead them to glory.

Of course players aging or moving on are part of the game, but Manly’s new crop of forwards has failed to match the efforts of their predecessors, leaving Walker and DCE somewhat exposed.

Young number nine Matt Parcell has been a rare highlight at Brookvale this season, with the rake establishing himself at NRL level, however his fellow recruits just haven’t been able to match his success.

Add to that the aging of key players and the injuries that come along with that territory, as well as the presence of an inexperienced coach under major pressure from the outset, and there are plenty of obstacles for the Sea Eagles to overcome.

Although there are some ridiculously talented youngsters on the books at Manly, and I certainly wouldn’t write them off long term, it looks as though the golden era is coming to an end.

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