Bit of a preview for 07

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Journey Man
Only a few days out from their fist hit out of the season I felt it’s a good time to preview those in the maroon and white or should that be green and white?

In the first trial against last years grand finalists the boys will wear a green and white jersey to help promote green power and environmental awareness. A great initiative that will hopefully also attract the luck of the Irish, which after all you could easily feel you were watching. Both teams will be trialling superstar centres in the role of 5/8. Will one or both succeed? Only time will tell however do not expect answers to come from this trial, like always just expect more questions.

This year we see Manly field a backline of talent that has not been seen since the mid 90’s team, 2 Internationals, 1 State of Origin, 2 City/Country, 1 junior Kangaroo and Robbo make up one of the more potent backlines in the competition. However they have lost the cornerstone of their forward pack and 2006 captain in Ben Kennedy. How they cope with his loss is the main question on everybody’s lips. Will new captian Matt Orford be able to rally the troops? Will Orford take another half season to gel with Lyon should be play 5/8? Will there be a suitable replacement in the back row? One things for sure, there are plenty of hands in the air willing to try, something we haven’t seen since the 90’s team as well. Names like Stewart, Afamasaga, Wells, Cuthbertson are all there, ready to make this spot their own. In the last 2 years we have seen 2 props stand up and embed themselves in the starting 17, in 2005, Bryant showed enough to get himself a start in 2006 where he cemented his spot, then came along Big George – a crowd favourite over night George Rose steamrolled his way into the starting 17 for last latter part of 2006. After an off season of shedding useless fat and gaining muscle one can only hope he can provide the much needed impact off the bench. The other two props speak for themselves, 1 who is playing for Australia and one who should be pushing for it. Kite finished 2006 like a racehorse and with any luck will pick up where he left off in 2007. King improved in 2006 but we need to see the same again. Another off season started by foot surgery we hope that it will be the last of the problems associated in that area and we can see the bloke who played a few years ago.

Finally there is the hooking spot – how times have changed. 2 years ago we had to put up with blind side run after blind side run from the Chad, now we have choice and a lot of it. Firstly last years starting hooker, Mick Monaghan, he is solid, very good long kicker and good defender who keeps the centre tight in the first 20. Last year he connected better with Orford allowing for a smoother attack which, like the defence lost fluency when Dunley took the field. Dunner’s has an explosive run that can only be matched by his temper. In 2007 it appears that Travis Burns may well be looking at a hooking role. Having played 5/8 outside Orford he may have to make way for a big time singing, the same switch Monas made a year earlier. With more skills than Dunley and similar aggression he seems like the perfect replacement to keep the sting on the bench. That is until you look into Premier League. Matt Ballin is the only genuine hooker at the club, tops the fitness tests and had a good first grade trial in 2006. At 23 and off contract its now or never as far as he and the Eagles are concerned. A good defender with a crisp pass and good speed off the mark he has the all round game and fitness to become a good 80 minutes first grade hooker, the question is will he get his chance.

Now a more in depth look at some of the premier league players likely to push for a spot in the next year or two.


Jack Afamasaga.
Jack comes to us like plenty before him from the Eels. He grew up playing in New Zealand and was when younger spoken about in the same sentence as SBW. His time at Parramatta has been riddled with injuries and so far his footballing life has been well bellow his potential. The hope is that like BK before him he can overcome the injuries and play to his full ability, a hard running back rower with good hands. Look for jack to be the big improver at the club.

Jason Wells
Came to Manly last year from the bulldogs. Jason has very good ball skills and is a lock in the mould of Kosef. After a solid year in PL he has been bulking up to get the penetration in attack that he will need for first grade and will be jumping at the opportunity to crack it.

Adam Cuthbertson
A local junior, Cuthbo got a taste of first grade with 4 games in 2006. Playing out of position as a prop he looked to be trying a bit hard resulting in a lot of dropped ball. One can only hope he gets another go this year in his more suited Second row. He is a hard running hard tackling second rowers with a good right hand offload. After 2 stand out years in Premier league and a taste of first grade don’t be surprised to see him step up on 2007.

Glenn Stewart
Brother of Brett, Glenn has had a good taste of first grade. Playing a similar game to Willo, Glenn will tackle anything that runs at him. His attack lacked penetration (no worse than Willo) but after an off season to work on it you would expect an improvement in 2007. To be frank he is a younger fitter version of Willo with more potential in attack. Expect to see a lot of Glenn in first grade this year and with 19 games under his belt he is well aware of what it takes.

Glenn Hall
A journeyman prop, Hall has made a bold move and turned down a 2 year contract backing himself to be good enough to warrant an upgrade for 2008. Hall is 26 in 2007, around the age that most props start to really hit their peak, he has played 29 first grade games and will provide some depth for injuries and Kite’s rep duties.

Sione Finefeuiaki
As wide as they come this man can run over the top of the best defender. An improvement in fitness and lateral defence may see him pushing for a first grade birth should enough other be unavailable but don’t expect to see much of him.

Matt Ballin
A complete all-round hooker who has been a constant performer in premier league. Ballin is a strong defender, gets the ball out quickly and can get off the mark with enough speed and strength to break the line. His performance in the roosters trial of 2006 warranted another chance in firsts but that was not to be. This year he has recorder the highest beep test at the club and his performance off the field is certainly first grade standard. If he can perform on the field in the trials he must get a chance to prove himself in first grade this year, otherwise expect him to walk.

Michael Bani
A speedster direct from Cairns and the Queensland cup this kid has plenty of talent. Its just finding the right headspace that the problem. He plays fullback and winger and knows his way to the try line. May well get a run in first if injuries hit, a real uknown.

The premier league team has also had an influx from the Flegg boys who, since they started together in Harold Mathews have not missed the semi finals. Young half Aaron Groom is probably the best talent coming through the ranks, he will certainly be a handful for the opposition, at 19 he is all set to take over from Orford in 3 years time. Along side him will be Chris Trembath a big , hard running prop that at this stage looks the goods. Backing him up in the forwards is the other redhead, Mark Offerdahl. A classy back rower who has played plenty or junior rep footy over the last few years. Add Sam Key and Jono Grieve to that list as well as new recruit Shane Neumann and the Premier League squad looks full of talent and well worth getting down to the ground a couple of hours early when possible. Expect to see a few of these guys pushing for spots over the next few years.

So where does that leave the team as a whole?

Well a stronger backline than 2006, weaker forwards and improved depth. Melbourne and the Tigers have both made the grand finals without the best forward packs but a very good backline, this year Manly will try the same. With the amount of depth available the main question will be will Des drop underperformers? Needless to say I can’t wait to find out.
Good post Fluf. Though I am deeply concerned about our pack, as you said, the Tigers and the Storm made GF's without big names. The thing is though, their respective coaches got the most out of their charges, and had them playing to their peak. And Sheens was able to catch everyone by surprise by turning their forwards into ball-playing forwards, unlike anything ever encountered. My question is - what can Des do to catch everyone by surprise with our forward stock? And can he have them playing to their maximum potential? This is the big question.
No probs mata - you might want to run the spell check first, i didnt read through it after. lol

Guess the footy bug has bitten me, this next 4 weeks are going to be tough
Nice work Flufster.

I can't remember the last time I read such a comprehensive report on this site.
well done Fluffy - great read but in the absence of Fro and the spelling police, does the first line meaning we are bringing back the biff this year???
Fantastic Fluffy. :clap: :clap:
I especially enjoyed the deep analysis of the players on the fringe and that will be useful to all of us when they get their chances. I can see you are fired up (without a phone) and another year is just about to get going!
I can only hope so CW - and as i stated, no editing went into this.

MB due to Flegg and PL starting first the memory is far better than a few hours later.
hahah well... i was about to come in here and say "Mata, that preview you did was brilliant mate" (i read it before seeing this and it said down the bottom posted by Mata) but i guess fluffy is the culprit... a good read mate... that has definately got me in the mood for footy season!!

Cheers mate
Lyon facing challenge to assume BK's leading role
Greg Prichard
February 21, 2007

MANLY coach Des Hasler admits he isn't yet sure whether Jamie Lyon will prove to be as valuable to the Sea Eagles as Ben Kennedy.

The great debate surrounding the club is whether, although Lyon is a Test player who still has many years of potentially great football ahead of him, the Sea Eagles have still lost more than they have gained because of the retirement of Kennedy, who joined the club as a veteran but had two great years in closing.

It's a reflection of the enormous influence Kennedy had on the team, rather than anything negative about Lyon. They are different personalities and different styles of players. Kennedy was a lock. Lyon made his name at centre and will be tried at five-eighth.

Lyon, in his own way, needs to make his mark on the Sea Eagles like Kennedy did, if the team, after returning to the finals in 2005 and improving again last year, is to remain a major competitive force.

"It's a fair question," Hasler says, when asked about the debate. "Lyon is a great player, a world-class player, but he has been out of the NRL for a couple of years and he has got some real challenges ahead of him. What I can say, though, is that his attitude and application during the pre-season says he is rising to those challenges, so I'm very confident in him."

While Kennedy, whose head would be next to the word passion if league had a pictorial dictionary, is gone, Hasler says he is not forgotten by his former teammates and that, particularly in the younger forwards whom Kennedy nurtured, some BK has rubbed off.

"Kennedy is a big loss," Hasler said. "Exactly how much I don't know, at this stage, but that is what happens in football. Players don't last forever and clubs are confronting the loss of great players all the time. The positive thing for us is that Ben has left a great legacy.

"Everyone playing in the NRL works hard and is strong and is a terrific athlete, but then there are those really special players who have something extra. Ben had a fantastic work ethic and incredible passion and motivation. He demanded an enormous amount from myself and those around him and the other players tried to give that to him.

"The younger players learned from him and I can tell from their off-season preparation that they are trying to bring that attitude to their game again this season."

The presence of Steve Bell and Steve Matai in the centres has given Hasler the option of using Lyon at five-eighth, where he played towards the end of his second season with English club St Helens, last year, but the coach says he is keeping an open mind on where the former Parramatta star will be best suited.

"We can chop and change," he says. "We'll have a look at Jamie at five-eighth during the trials, but we'll see how a few other combinations go as well.

"If a player is already world-class in one position it's possible he can step up and be world-class in another position, like Darren Lockyer did [switching from fullback to five-eighth with Brisbane], but we'll have to wait and see. Travis Burns did well at five-eighth for us last year and he's a young player who is still improving, so we've got options.

"Injuries and representative commitments will test our depth and play a part in the decision-making on where to use players. Each club is dealt certain cards during a season and it's how you handle it, but I'm very happy with our depth."


1 Brett Stewart
2 Chris Hicks
3 Steve Bell
4 Steve Matai
5 Michael Robertson
6 Jamie Lyon
7 Matt Orford
13 Luke Williamson
12 Steve Menzies
11 Anthony Watmough
10 Jason King
9 Michael Monaghan
8 Brent Kite

14 Shayne Dunley
15 Glenn Stewart
16 George Rose
17 Mark Bryant



Jamie Lyon: He wasn't signed as a direct replacement for Ben Kennedy but, if Manly are to take a crack at the title, Lyon must have a similarly big influence.


Anthony Watmough: He's no rookie - he has played Origin for NSW - but last year was disappointing for him. Manly need him to step up and become a team leader.


Fifth. Eliminated in second week of the finals.

BETTING (TAB Sportsbet)

$13 to win premiership, $1.65 to make top eight.


Braveheart: Hero William Wallace departs at the end of the movie and along comes Robert the Bruce to take his place. Out goes Kennedy, in comes Lyon.

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