Manly Sea Eagles Half Yearly Report Written by: Matt Starkey June 12th, 2007 09:19 AM [z]1817[/z] IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢d imagine most Manly fans would be pretty happy right about now. After a less than successful tilt at the 2006 Premiership, where they crashed to Newcastle (25-18.) and St George-Illawarra (28-0) in the semi finals, the Sea Eagles are sitting pretty in 2007. Currently perched in second position on the NRL ladder, they have just enjoyed a bye and face up to the Rabbitohs at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night with a chance to reclaim the top spot again if Melbourne fails in North Queensland. Despite fears that the loss of Ben Kennedy would dampen their forward packÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s grunt, Brent Kite, Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart have led the way for them this year. Unfortunately, the loss of George Rose to a terrible leg injury hasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t helped, but the return of club stalwart Steve Menzies should lift spirits in the coming weeks. After assembling an outstanding list of players, Manly have now shed Michael Monaghan and Travis Burns for next season, eroding their player depth which has been one of the clubÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s strengths in ?07. Manly has instead opted for a halves combination of Jamie Lyon and Matt Orford going forward, with a very strong centre pairing of Steve Bell and Steve Matai. Whilst Lyon and Orford are classy players, the jury is still out on them as match-winners. To be fair, Orford stepped up when a field goal was needed against the Storm, but Monaghan has been more impressive at halfback this season. And though LyonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s goal kicking has been good, his attacking game has been uninspiring for the most part. Coach Des Hasler certainly has them well drilled in defence, but Manly will need to lift another notch in attack if theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re to be a genuine threat to the title this season. Fullback Brett Stewart is a constant source of tries and wingers Michael Robertson and Chris Hicks are also flyers. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢d really like to see them go out and touch-up a team before declaring them to be the oneÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s to beat this season. Their highest score was 46 points against the Raiders, but they conceded 30 that day as well. They have an excellent for-and-against, which is mainly due to their defensive prowess and that does win games of football, but what theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re lacking is that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“X-factorÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â type of player who can create something out of nothing. Still, heading into the second half of the season itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s fair to say Manly are in the best position to challenge for the Premiership since their last Grand Final appearance in 1997. Best player - Anthony Watmough. A devastating runner of the ball and heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s been knocking on selectors doors for the majority of the year. Outstanding all-round effort from him this year. Most disappointing player - Matt Orford. Still failing to reach his potential and has been overshadowed by Michael Monaghan at times. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‹ÂœOxÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ can play, thereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s no doubt about it, but he has yet to produce the goods for Manly consistently and can sometimes choke when the game is on the line. Best win - 13-12 over Melbourne. The toughest game of club footy so far this season. Fantastic win but unfortunately couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t recover the following week and went down to an inconsistent Penrith outfit. Most disappointing performance - 46-30 win over Canberra. Although they won, defence went out the window and they had 30 points put on them. Trailing 12-6 at halftime, defence went out the window for both sides and although the Sea Eagles won the game, it wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t an encouraging sign. It was the second week in a row that they conceded 30 points after losing 30-26 to the Cowboys the week before. Best rookie - Matt Ballin. Clever player around the rucks and looks to have a big future at the club. With the departure of Monaghan next season Ballin will start in the no.9 jersey and has enough wraps to suggest he may be a future rep player. Most improved player - Glen Stewart. A great jack of all trades. Good pace, tackles strong and has a solid work ethic. A sensational improvement upon last season and heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ll be keen to get that beard growing again. Best signing - Jamie Lyon. He hasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t set the world on fire but heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s offered another attacking option, solid defence and a good goal kicking record. Coach to see out season? - Yes, absolutely. Hasler is one of the up-an-coming coaches in the comp and his name has been mentioned around the traps if Graham Murray canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t get the Blues across the line this season. Final position prediction - 2nd. I still fancy the Storm to take out the minor premiership, but once the semi-finals come around anything can happen. I expect that Manly will finish in the top two and put themselves in the box seat for a Grand Final Qualifier in the fourth week of September.