TK's take on the Manly Sea Eagles:
Halves - One of the strengths of the team and led by Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans. His old sparring partner Kieran Foran is back in town and will be favourite to partner him. Plenty of options in rising young star Josh Schuster, Dylan Walker is likely to be shifted to the centres but his an option as is Cade Cust.
Middle forwards - Even with the departure of Addin Fonua-Blake, Manly is still well served in this area. They have done well to secure Josh Aloiai who is coming off a career best season at the Tigers, but they will need their big names in Jake Trbojevic and Martin Taupau. Both of them had running metres well below their 2019 stats, in particular Taupau. Morgan Boyle is in contention for the bench, while the giants Taniela Paseka and Toafofoa Sipley will also push for extended game time in 2021.
Trbojevic brothers - An obvious one, but Tom and Jake just mean so much to the way the team operates. Jake with his work rate and ability to link his halves and Tom’s ability under the high ball, threat with the ball and ability to find space makes him one of the elite players in the NRL. Little brother Ben who is a centre could also debut with his continued progression through the ranks, given no NSW cup last year will likely play a chunk of reserve grade to get physically ready.
Hooker - With Manase Fainu stood down by the NRL, the Sea Eagles are the only club in the NRL without a specialist hooker. Lachlan Croker has played there before off the bench and there are rumours of potentially transitioning either Kieran Foran or Cade Cust into the number 9.
Tommy’s hamstrings - Trbojevic has played a total of 19 games in the past two seasons and Manly need their dynamite fullback on the park. It’s simple, no Tommy Turbo, no finals for the Sea Eagles. Interestingly they didn’t re-sign Albert Hopoate, despite his injuries, no doubt a talented player. A possible red flag for other reasons the Raiders should have explored.
Left edge - The departure of Joel Thompson leaves an opportunity for a new starter on the edge. Jack Gosiewski and Haumole Olakau’atau had some time there in 2020, while Des Hasler has recruited Parramatta backrower Andrew Davey. At 29, Davey is a mature age rookie who played 10 games for the Eels and cracked the top 17 for the final 5 games of the season. Has a great work rate and is particularly sound in defence which might see him get the starting gig over his younger teammates.
Hooker - See above
Outside backs - Some good competition brewing for spots in the outside backs. Looking at the wing, Jorge Taufua will miss the start of the season while a less than stellar season from Ruben Garrick leaves both spots open to take. The club has recruited Christian Tuipulotu from the Roosters and Jason Saab from the Dragons who will push Tevita Funa and Garrick for the starting spot.
Centres is also going to be closely contested. Dylan Walker is likely to take one spot with so many quality halves at the club it just make sense. The volatile Moses Suli should take the other but Morgan Parker and Brad Parker will push the duo for a spot as will talented youngsters Ben Trbojevic and Tolutau Koula.
VERDICT - All depends on Tommy. I hate to put that much pressure on a player but with the NRL being so close you can’t be spending $1million + dollars on a player who averages 9.5 games per year for the last two years. Still have the squad to compete with the big guns but no Fainu is still a huge hole for the club and is the difference between them being a top four contender and finishing somewhere between 7th and 12th. No team will rely on the health of their top players more than Manly in 2020.