Predicted Finish: 8th
Actual Finish: 13th
Manly could not repeat their unexpected heroics of 2019 and comfortably missed the finals this year. Truthfully Manly looked a side incapable of making the finals but Des Hasler’s ability to lift players and upset more fancied teams lead to a prediction of 8th. Bad read on my behalf.
– Good Start: Manly looked as though they would continue on from their impressive 2019 season and again proves the doubters wrong. They started the season with a hard-fought loss to eventual Premiers the Storm, but then beat the defending premiers the Roosters in round two.
|They backed up with a huge win over the Dogs before two wins from the next three games. Four wins from the opening six games set Manly up for a finals run beautifully. Heading into their round seven game with the Sharks they were in the eight and delivering results despite injuries. Unfortunately it wouldn’t last.
– Wins over Top Teams: You wouldn’t believe it if you hadn’t seen it yourself but Manly beat the Roosters, Raiders and Eels in 2020. The 9-8 win over the premiers in the Roosters showed their mettle early. A 22-18 win over a flying Eels side had fans sure they were about to overcome a form slump and push for the finals. A 14-6 win over Canberra, away from Brookvale, showed that they could get it done against yet another top-quality side. These are three wins that should have kickstarted the Sea Eagles to something much bigger.
– Awful end to the season: Manly, in the run in to the finals, would win just one of their final eight games. That win came over the equally hapless Bulldogs. Conceding 40 points to an exhausted and RTS-less Warriors in Round 20 ended their season exactly as they deserved. The Titans and Tigers both beat Manly in that run, while the Storm and Bunnies, Panthers reduced the Sea Eagles to a points differential bump.
– Turbo Injuries: Turbo was reduced to just seven appearances for Manly in 2020. His injury in round six all but ended Manly’s season. They won four of six with Turbo yet only a further three wins in the next 14 games. Turbo pushed to return to put his name forward for the Blues but only lasted 61 minutes before his season ended.
– Multiple first graders below par: Big things were expected from the players Manly saw emerge in 2019. Rueben Garrick did not kick on as was expected and is now linked with the Dragons. Curtis Sironen looked on track for a potential Origin spot but did not deliver. Dylan Walker in no way justified his continued big pay packet. The likes of Suli, Cust and Taufua all endured disappointing seasons.
– Player Exodus: Manly lost AFB, Levi and Joel Thompson without replacing any of them. AFB’s rumoured replacement is currently in a contract stand off with the Tigers but only Kieran Foran joining the ranks. Manly’s depth was hugely tested in 2020 while their 2019 NSW Cup side finished dead last. Unless Des Hasler has some superstars in the making ready to unleash, 2021 could be a long season due to their 2020 decisions.
The comments will likely flow re DCE or AFB but for mine Cherry Evans was average, at best in 2020, and AFB spent time on the sidelines when his team needed him due to his actions. I refuse to name him here as a result.
For mine young Taniela Paseka was the man at Brookvale. In his 18 games he averaged over 100 metres per game despite coming off the bench more often than not.
He made 25 tackle breaks, had 18 offloads and tackled at over 91% efficiency. At only 23 and with AFB moving on, he joins Taupau as the pack leader in 2021.
Paseka is one of very few Manly players who can truly hold their head high in 2020.
As I type this I’m unsure why I’m not delivering an F verdict. Manly hugely underdelivered in 2020 despite a more than solid start. They didn’t deserve to play finals footy and were lucky that there were three horror teams behind them.
Cherry Evans, and Taupau were below par, despite the former being asked to play a lone hand far too often. AFB’s continual errors kept him off the park for too long despite him being the pack leader.
Manly’s superstar core didn’t live up to its billing, or pay cheques, and without Turbo they lacked in almost every department in attack.
Paseka was an absolute monster while young Funa had his moments, but otherwise it was a disappointing season for the Sea Eagles and their fans.
Hasler has plenty to do in the off-season to see his side return to finals footy.