DESSIE Hasler’s high-flying Sea Eagles will go for broke on Sunday against the New Zealand Warriors on the back of a bargain basement team with a perfect blend of experience and youngsters hand-picked to be the heart and soul of the club for years to come.
A number of Sea Eagles in action on Sunday have progressed to first grade via Toyota Cup.
Manly play the club’s third grand final in five years with Hasler relying heavily on the talents of his recruitment team of Noel Cleal and David Warwick to bolster the champion team of 2008.
This photo is proof that the back-up system at the Sea Eagles is the best in the NRL despite the fact the club spends nowhere near the amount of other clubs in its elite youth group from the Under 20 Toyota Cup team.
The class of 2009 however, is flying the flag proudly. They are pictured after winning the minor premiership in 2009 following the final competition game against the Gold Coast Titans.
Five players pictured are in the club’s grand final squad, while a sixth, Kieran Foran was missing because he played first grade on the day.
The five in the photo are Daly Cherry-Evans front centre (left of trophy), Jamie Buhrer (right of trophy), Darcy Lussick (standing, left of centre), Will Hopoate (rear centre with cheesy smile) and Michael Oldfield (front, second on right).
Hasler has gradually injected the young players alongside the likes of his international stars such as Brett and Glenn Stewart, Steve Matai, Jamie Lyon and Anthony Watmough.
The result has been stunning with a team very few picked to make the eight at the start of the season now a $1.55 favourite. Manly’s opening price at TAB Sportsbet at the start of the season was 26-1.
MICHAEL Robertson will play his 150th first grade game with the Sea Eagles in Sunday’s grand final. The specialist left winger and three-try grand final hero from 2008 will have a big cheer squad for his final game in maroon and white. Robbo has had to hire a 50-seater from club sponsor Beachwheels to get his family and friends to ANZ Stadium.
Robertson and teammate Shane Rodney will join the London Harlequins in the English Super League next season.
THURSDAY’S grand final breakfast highlighted the amazing goodwill off the field between the Sea Eagles and Warriors.
In 2007 and 2008 I recall the pre-arranged media photo shoots between Storm and Sea Eagles players as being very tense.
Not so this week as rival fullbacks Brett Stewart and Kevin Locke laughed through their session as did the halfbacks Daly Cherry-Evans and Shaun Johnston.
Big Manu Vatuvei showed off his gold tooth constantly as he chatted with Manly’s young gun Will Hopoate and the respective captains Jamie Lyon and Simon Mannering spoke openly about the build-up. All the photographers from the major newspapers spoke about how obliging the players were.
Despite the friendly atmosphere it will be game faces on at 5.15pm Sunday afternoon.
Manly’s boom halves combination of Cherry-Evans and Foran continue to impress everyone with their refreshing approach to the media. The pair calmly answered every question put to them in an interesting interview with former star Laurie Daley in the live cross with Fox Sports from Thursday’s grand final breakfast.
Veteran journalists such as the Daily Telegraph’s Dean Ritchie and Phil Rothfield rate the pair as not only two of the most exciting players they have seen for many seasons but two of the most approachable, easy to interview players in the NRL.
The respective managers of the number six and seven are fielding loads of requests for product endorsements for the pair.
THE return of Glenn Stewart has given the Sea Eagles a massive boost. Stewart was rated the form player of the NRL by none other than Wally Lewis this week.
Stewart is a lifelong fan of the former Queensland Origin and Australian Test captain and can’t believe Lewis’s opinion of him.
“I am flattered and thank him but I can’t believe he said that,” Stewart said.
“The Gift” has worked hard on his fitness over the past month after his three-match suspension following THAT sideline blue at Brookie against Melbourne in round 25.
Stewart and skipper Jamie Lyon have been specked in betting for the Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground in the GF.
Judges are none other than the Australian selectors who will name Stewart in the Australian Four Nations side which will play New Zealand in Newcastle on October 16 before heading to England.
MEMO to the 847 people who sent me emails over my exit from the Sea Eagles. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and promise I will personally write back to every one of you in the weeks ahead.
It has been a very moving time for me and my family but the support I have received from the community on the northern beaches has been amazingly uplifting.
A letter I received this week from a representative from the Tongan community on the peninsula will most certainly be reproduced in my book - I can now finish the final chapters.
I am feeling a happy ending on Sunday night delivered by the toughest Manly side I have seen.
The 2011 side will find a way to win no matter the hurdles.
Several of the players left out of the game can consider themselves most unlucky, such is the overall strength of Dessie’s squad.