REFLECTIONS & PREDICTIONS Looking back, forward 02 Jan 09 by PETER PETERS http://manly-daily.whereilive.com.au/sport/story/looking-back-forward/ In February the Sea Eagles start the amazing journey to try and go back-to-back in the Telstra Cup. And, for the first time in the clubÃ¢Â€Â™s history, they wonÃ¢Â€Â™t play in Australia before the start of the premiership. London is where the first tackle in anger will be made in 2009 for Des Hasler and his defending NRL champions. From there the side will travel north to Yorkshire and the city of Leeds for the World Club Challenge, before returning home to kick-off the domestic season - at the scene of last seasonÃ¢Â€Â™s record 40-0 grand-final win over the Melbourne Storm - against long-time rivals the Bulldogs. It has been and will continue to be an exciting time for the people of the peninsula, with the districtÃ¢Â€Â™s pride and joy on top of the league world once more after being hours away from oblivion a few short years ago. So while the sun is shining and our glorious beaches are packed, letÃ¢Â€Â™s look back on the 2008 season and ahead to 2009 with some reflections and predictions. 2008: REFLECTIONS Best Moment: No contest - Steve Menzies scoring his 180th and final try for Manly in the grand final. Sheer ecstasy for Beaver and one of the greatest fairytale endings in modern sport. Biggest Hit: Again a no-contest - Josh Perry, saying hello Brookie in his debut match in maroon and white, rocked Barrenjoey Lighthouse with his head-on collision of Sharks prop Ben Ross in round one. Coolest Act: Brett Stewart and Heath LÃ¢Â€Â™Estrange showing a sense of humour in the heat of the battle with their rock, paper, scissors act to decide who scored against the Dragons in the home semi. Exploded Myths: That Manly fans wonÃ¢Â€Â™t travel or the Eagles canÃ¢Â€Â™t win away from home. The maroon and white in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Canberra was simply stunning. Manly won all three games - the latter with 12 men when Adam Cuthbertson was sent off 10 minutes before half-time. Iron Man: Michael Robertson who has played every minute of every game for Manly since making his debut in round two in 2006 -79 games or 6320 minutes, and the last 80 were by far the best with three tries. Unluckiest Player: No risk - Michael Bani. The young flyer was in fabulous form - close to our best player- when knocked for six by injury. It opened the way for David Ã¢Â€ÂœWolfmanÃ¢Â€Â Williams to incredibly grab an Australian jersey. Cult Hero: Ã¢Â€ÂœWolfy.Ã¢Â€Â A mind-boggling debut season in the big time. His howling under the full moon at Brookie after a semi-final try was priceless and the mob on the hill joined in. Redemption Award: Matt OrfordÃ¢Â€Â™s Dally M Award and subsequent brilliant leadership and play in the final series. For a player who is constantly ridiculed by the media it was the ultimate Ã¢Â€Âœup yoursÃ¢Â€Â. Greatest Wins: The grand final, of course, but the 20-16 win over the Eels in round six at Parramatta Stadium, with no fit reserves on the bench, and the 31-18 victory over Canberra with 12 men flagged what a gutsy side we had. Worst Display: No risk, the 40-32 loss to South Sydney in round 23 at ANZ Stadium. It was embarrassing but it did the job - it was the last loss of the season. Six of the Best: In the last six games the Sea Eagles produced another gear and scored 220 points to 54, an average scoreline of 36-9 to be convincing champions. Is This a Dream?: The sea of people outside Manly Leagues Club close to midnight after the grand final - all in maroon and white and wanting to touch their heroes. Greatest Satisfaction: The number of young children - tiny tots - proudly wearing maroon and white to games all season. Flying the Flag: It is three months since the grand final and still the peninsula is rejoicing with hundreds of cars still sporting their club flags. Crystal Ball Award: Phil Gould at Steve Menzies farewell. Ã¢Â€ÂœI can feel in this room that this team will win the premiership for the Beaver.Ã¢Â€Â 2009 PREDICTIONS: Chris Bailey to be valued member of the Sea Eagles with his size and versatility. He looks a player who will blossom under Hasler. Tony Williams to have a slow start but will build momentum from mid-season into a juggernaut on the edge of the ruck. T-Rex will prove a real handful for defences - especially close to the tryline. Mark him down for a dozen in his debut season. Brett Stewart to continue his amazing tryscoring career in the number one jersey and particularly at his beloved Brookvale Oval. Ã¢Â€ÂœSnakeÃ¢Â€Â has scored 92 tries in 112 games - simply awesome. Sea Eagles to go back-to-back and emulate the Sea Eagles of 1972 and 1973. Matt Orford to finally crack NSW State of Origin selection. Jamie Lyon to continue his brilliant late season form of 2008 after his best off season in five years. William Hopoate to lay the foundations for a long and brilliant career. This kid could be one of the best local juniors since the great Menzies. Matt Ballin to continue his premiership rise and to becoming a 150-plus first grade player for Manly. Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles to become a great feeder club for Manly. The Sea Eagles to win the World Club Challenge against the Leeds Rhinos on March 1. Des Hasler to continue his gradual rise to become one of ManlyÃ¢Â€Â™s greatest coaches.