SATURDAY WRAP | Wins for Melbourne Storm, Wests Tigers and a golden point special for the Vodafone W...
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Pursuing a seventh successive finals appearance in 2011, the Sea Eagles
will have to do their best to steer clear of the ill-timed injuries and
suspensions which brought their 2010 season to an underwhelming end,
what's more they will need to address the major lapses in consistency
and concentration which hallmarked their season.
Coach Des Hasler will be unwavering in his efforts to improve on the last two disappointing seasons but he doesn't have an easy task ahead of him.
On the positive side it appears as though board room distractions may be a thing of the past with Max Delmege giving up his ownership share of the club during the off season.
One of the biggest hurdles the club will face is the lack of depth in the top squad, while the top 17 will have a familiar look about it with plenty of class and experience throughout, the salary cap has stripped the club of much of the depth they once had and they will be relying heavily on the younger brigade to step up when players are inevitably unavailable.
The most pressure will be on rookie halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, stepping in for Trent Hodkinson he will be given ample time to find his feet but will be aware of the half options Hasler has at his disposal in off season recruit Liam Foran and young gun Gary Riccardi.
Jamie Lyon is of course the key to this Manly outfit, he has been the difference in making the top 8 or not over the last two years for this club, if he is on the field then Manly are always in with a chance of victory.
The return of Brett Stewart looms large, he may miss some early rounds as a cautious approach is taken with his comeback; he and David Williams will add much needed speed and spark to a backline that struggled to produce points at times last year. Young backs Dean Whare, William Hopoate and Michael Oldfield will all see the field at some point and hope to make an impact.
Amongst the forwards, Jason King and Matt Ballin had their best years to date in 2010 with Shane Rodney also a stand out before suffering a season ending knee injury, they will need to continue their rise in form and hope players like Anthony Watmough and Brent Kite can reach the heights they have in recent years if they are any chance of returning to the dominating forward pack they have been. The forwards could be boosted by the long hinted transition to the forwards of Tony Williams who will probably start the year in the backline as cover for the suspended Steve Matai.
A lot of pundits have Manly-Warringah finishing around the middle to lower end of the ladder and that would be a fair assessment at this stage when looking at last season, nevertheless they also showed they are capable of playing some of the highest quality rugby league in the NRL, if they address their issues with consistency and can conjure up some good luck, it would not surprise to see them well in the top eight at seasons end.
Player to Watch - Kieran Foran
At 20 years of age, Foran is the