LAST October, with the grand final in the balance, Manly sealed the title by going to their favoured right hand side and Jamie Lyon delivered in spades with a Luna Park smile as he planted the ball over the line for the match-winner.
His partner on the inside, man of the match Glenn Stewart, delivered a perfect pass into the gap between two Warriors defenders to ensure Manly had won their eighth title.
Seven months later, it is an opportune time to review the Sea Eagles and the team’s chances of going back-to-back.
What is already abundantly clear is that Lyon and Stewart have to be fit and on the field in the big end-of-season matches for Manly to have any chance of doing a ninth lap of honour.
Manly aren’t the side they were a year ago with Michael Robertson and Shane Rodney in England and injuries and suspensions smashing the club in the first three months of the premiership.
But the channel down the right could get them home as David Williams, Dean Whare and Michael Oldfield have found this season.
They have reaped the benefit of Stewart and Lyon’s work inside them with help from their teammates further inside - particularly Brett Stewart, Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans.
OLDFIELD ON A ROLL
MANLY give the left side defence of teams nightmares whenever Stewart and Lyon are on the field together.
It was on show at Brookvale Oval again last Friday night against a Dragons left side defence that won a premiership two seasons ago.
Kiwi international Jason Nightingale is one of the best defensive wingers in the NRL. But his opposite number, Oldfield, strolled through gaping holes provided mainly by Stewart and Lyon and helped himself to his first NRL hat-trick.
Oldfield has six tries in six games this season and David Williams somewhere near the same strike rate when he has played.
It’s the “go to” area whenever Manly are in trouble. The opposition have known it for years. Stopping it is another thing.
Coaches will work overtime and it will be interesting to see how former coach Des Hasler tries to combat it in a few weeks at Brookvale when Manly play the Bulldogs.
Hasler is an absolute fan of both Stewart and Lyon and helped them set up their lethal combination.
It was interesting to see Glenn Stewart interviewed in Origin camp this week. He praised his teammate Lyon and acknowledged that playing alongside his co-captain had helped him earn a sky blue jersey.
“Killer is a champion - playing on the edge with him in attack is awesome. But he isn’t just an attacking gun, he is the best defensive back in the competition,” he said.
For Manly fans it is a case of hoping the two remain healthy. If they do and Manly are in the finals they are more than capable of winning three successive games to take the title.
BARNES’ BIG NIGHT
I saw lots of Manly fans at an amazing night at Lizottes at Dee Why on Wednesday when legendary rock star Jimmy Barnes raised the roof. He may be older but he can still entertain with the back-up support from his incredibly talented family - particularly daughter Mahalia from The Voice.
An unexpected bonus was when The Voice judge and superstar Keith Urban joined Barnes on stage for three songs that had the ladies on their feet - led by Urban’s wife Nicole Kidman.
Narrabeen’s The Voice semi-finalist Prinnie Stevens was also in the audience.