manly season preview, nrl round 2

NRL expert Steve Green has put together his mammoth season preview for 2021. We’re running through every club, from his predicted wooden spooners to those he thinks will take out he premiership. Today it’s the Manly season preview.

2020 recap

No team had more disruption to key players than Manly. Fainu was a massive loss for the entire season. After having the best number 9 combo in the competition in 2019 (Fainu and Api), they went back to having no NRL quality hooker. Then the loss of Tom T for most of the season was the real kicker. He is a top 10 player in the NRL and without him, Manly’s attack looked so much weaker. Throw in injuries to D Walker, J Thompson, Suli, Fonua-Blake and Garrick, and Manly’s line up was well below full strength for most of the season.

Even still, there were some worrying signs. Hassler impressed so much in 2019, but there were elements of his dismal final season at the Doggies last year. Manly capitulated at times and lost some games in ways that were truly dumbfounding.

Manly season preview: Losses

Fonua-Blake is a massive loss! He is an elite prop forward and with Taupau, he laid the platform for Manly’s success in 2019. While Paseka is a quality back-up, his loss – as well as that of Joel Thompson – will leave a hole in their pack.

Manly season preview: Gains

Manly have recruited well in the offseason, with Davey from the Eels and Aloiai from Wests very good replacements for the forwards they have lost. Foran returning home is interesting. At times in 2020 he looked great, but his body just does not seem up to the rigours of the NRL anymore. Playing back under Des and with little expectation or pressure, he might just surprise a few people and show he still has it. Saab looks to have bulked up (he needed to!), while Tuipuotu impressed in his rare chances at the Roosters.

Manly season preview: Rookie radar

Josh Schuster is a superstar in the making. I don’t think I have seen someone look so classy on debut for a very long time. He came into the game with big wraps and although he got injured, he did enough to suggest to me he will be a future representative half. He’s a great talent and should find a home at 6 next to DCE (Foran is likely to play at 9). Schuster is my favourite for rookie of the year. He is a standout in a year where I think some excellent young guns will come into the NRL.

Manly season preview: Players to watch

Tom Trbojevic’s talent is undeniable, but there has to be some concerns creeping into his physical resilience. Much like Dugan, Tom T is such a strong runner of the ball – and someone that tries to break every tackle – that he seems at risk of injury every time he is involved in a heavy tackle. Hamstrings are also notoriously difficult to overcome, so Manly fans will have their heart in their mouth anytime he goes down sore in 2021. But if he stays fit, he is a great chance of picking up the Dally M.

Martin Taupau is now the undeniable Alpha of this forward pack. He will need to step up if he is to make up for the loss of Fonua-Blake. While Aloiai is a very good player, he does not possess the offload and footwork of Fonua-Blake. So Manly need Taupau to not just get through a lot of work, but to use his skill.

Moses Suli looks to have found a home at Manly, after a rough start to his NRL career. He clearly likes playing under Hassler and I am expecting him to bounce back to top form in 2021. The likes of Tom T, Schuster, Foran and DCE all there to create chances for him.

Manly season preview: Weaknesses

Depth was an issue in 2020 and once again, Manly look like they don’t have enough backups for the likes of Foran, Tom T and DCE. Their new recruits improve the situation, but Hassler will be desperately hoping he doesn’t lose any of his spine for long periods of the season. In particular, the number 9 position remains a concern. Fainu is still on the books and Manly are sticking by him until his criminal matter is resolved. So they haven’t opened the cheque book to try and sign someone for the long term.

Manly season preview: Strengths

DCE and Tom T are capable of tearing teams apart on their day. Both were among the top 10 players on my ratings in recent years. If they can maintain that form and stay fit, then they will lead this Manly team to a top 8 spot. But that is a big ‘’if”…

Manly season preview: Ladder prediction

12th

NRL season previews

Dragons
Bulldogs
Broncos
Knights

Storm
Souths
Sharks
Warriors
Eels

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