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2014 NRL Preview: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

Manly Sea-Eagles Stats

2013 Record: 15 wins from 24 premiership games (4th placed, Grand Finalists)
5-year record: 75 wins from 120 premiership games (63% win record)

Player Movements

Gains: Cheyse Blair, Josh Starling, Delroy Berryman, Jayden Hodges, Tyson Andrew

Losses: Brent Kite, George Rose, Joe Galuvao, Richard Fa’aoso

Coach: Geoff Toovey

Fixtures to start and end 2014

First five fixtures: Storm (H), Rabbitohs (H), Eels (H), Roosters (A), Tigers (A)
Final five fixtures: Rabbitohs (A), Titans (A), Eels (A), Panthers (H), Cowboys (A)

The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles enter 2014 breathing a little easier after injury-prone winger David Williams received positive news on a knee injury picked up at the Nines and looks set to play in round one. For a number of years now I have been waiting for Manly’s ageing roster to struggle with the week to grind of the NRL but it hasn’t happened. They have been one of the most successful teams of the last decade with premierships in 2008 and 2011, and Grand Final appearances in 2007 and 2013.

The Stewart brothers are approaching 30, Jamie Lyon is already in his 30’s, Steve Matai is nearly 30, and David Williams will be 28 this year, while forwards Anthony Watmough and Jason King are in the final years of their career. However they boast the best halves combination in the NRL in New Zealand international Kieran Foran and Australian utility Daly Cherry-Evans, who had his best season in 2013 and won the Clive Churchill medal in the Grand Final in a beaten side. These two have played in first grade for many years now and they never seem to get injured, even if some of the players around them struggle to put many games together. Lyon was the best centre in the game in the early 2000’s and while he may not have the same speed and acceleration these days he is a constant threat down Manly’s right edge. Brett Stewart has had his share of injuries but when fit, he is one of the best fullbacks going around and will compete with Josh Dugan and Jarryd Hayne for the NSW fullback spot this year.

I am really impressed with their barnstorming winger Jorge Taufua and thought he was incredibly unlucky not to play Origin last year. He is fast and powerful and knows how to sniff out a try. If he stays fit and maintains his form, I think he should be in the NSW side. They have added highly rated Canberra youngster Michael Chee-Kam who at only 21 years of age is 189cm and 103kg, and he is destined for a big year, probably coming off the bench to start with but expect him to push for a starting spot later in the year when he gets some games under his belt.

They have the right roster to claim a top four spot and I’d be surprised if they finished lower than sixth such is their professionalism, experience and talent. They do struggle with injuries at times and I’m not sure about their depth, although Peta Hiku impressed in his limited opportunities last year. Jamie Lyon will again lead their back line and with Foran and Cherry-Evans leading the side around not much can go wrong.

University of Wollongong alumni and aspiring journalist.

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