ICYMI, on Thursday the @NRL - National Rugby League released the 2018 #NRLDraw.
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The Manly Sea Eagles will be looking to be the first team to go back-to-back in premierships since Brisbane in 92/93 - but it will be a struggle. Although the core of the 2011 Grand Final-winning team remains, the biggest loss of them all is coach Des Hasler, who was sacked by the club in late-2011 and has moved on to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
Manly will remained unchanged mostly for 2012 with the only losses in the player roster being Michael Robertson, Will Hopoate and Shane Rodney.
The first 5 weeks of the season will be the most testing. The team travels to England mid-Feburary for the World Club Challenge against Leeds Rhinos in the pre-season, then head back home to Australia before jumping across the ditch for a Round 1 Grand Final Replay against the Warriors at Eden Park. Round 2 sees a home game moved to Gosford against Wests Tigers, followed by trips to Cronulla, Kogarah and Parramatta before finally returning to the "fortress" of Brookvale Oval in Round 6.
Why They Can Win It
Finals series experience; especially for the young players. The exciting young halves will continue to develop and if the Manly spine of Stewart, Foran, DCE & Ballin remains strong, confident and injury-free, Manly can do it again.
Why They May Struggle
The dreaded second-year syndrome may strike Daly Cherry-Evans. And even though Geoff Toovey has been around the club for years, he may struggle in his first year as a first-grade coach.
Player to Watch
Kieran Foran - Foran will only improve with age. His eye for the game and representative experience will help guide this team around the field once again.
Rookies to Watch
Daniel Harrison & Darcy Lussick - Harrison cracked first grade early in the 2011 season. Expect to see this red head push for a bench spot in 2012.
Lussick is known for his part in 2011's Brookie Brawl in Round 25. This hard-working prop will be looking to secure a bench spot for 2012.
Ins & Outs
In: Ben Farrar (Catalan Dragons), Nick Skinner & Jorge Taufua.
Out: Michael Robertson, Shane Rodney (both London Broncos), Will Hopoate (Eels 2014)
Best Line Up
1 - Brett Stewart, 2 - David Williams, 3 - Jamie Lyon (c), 4 - Steve Matai, 5 - Michael Oldfield, 6 - Kieran Foran, 7 - Daly Cherry-Evans, 8 - Jason King (c), 9 - Matt Ballin, 10 - Brent Kite, 11 - Anthony Watmough, 12 - Tony Williams, 13 - Glenn Stewart
Interchange: 14 - Darcy Lussick, 15 - Jamie Buhrer, 16 - George Rose, 17 - Vic Mauro