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Sea Eagles may start 2008 slowly: Orford
Manly skipper Matt Orford has warned Sea Eagles fans that last year's beaten NRL grand finalists could be a little slow out of the blocks as they adjust to life without Michael Monaghan.
Monaghan has hit the ground running in guiding Warrington into a share of top spot in the English Super League, but back on Sydney's northern beaches, his absence is being felt.
Playing predominantly at hooker, Monaghan was the creative force behind much of what Manly did last year.
His departure is likely to see even more of the playmaking pressure lumped on Orford's shoulders.
And while Orford denied it would all be up to him, he admitted it could take a while for he and whoever inherited the No.9 jumper to gel, with former Sydney Roosters rake Heath L'Estrange and last year's back-up Matt Ballin battling it out for the job.
"It's going to take a few games but I played a few games with Matty last year, so it's just those little calls that Monners and I had," Orford said.
"We read each others games, that could take a while.
"Me and Monners did well because we complemented each other's game, so I think to a certain extent (there is more pressure on me).
"But I think Jamie Lyon's a lot more settled this year, he's going to take more responsibility and he's a lot more comfortable playing where he's playing.
"I think with Matty Ballin and Heath there, we're going to share that role ... it's not all going to be me out there, those guys have got a role to play as well."
While the Sea Eagles won't be venturing too far from the game plan which took them all the way to last year's NRL decider, Orford said fans could expect some minor changes.
With Lyon having now had a whole season at five-eighth, Orford said it was only natural that he and his halves partner would be a little more adventurous in 2008.
"We're just going to run around the park and wherever we pop up we pop up," Orford said.
"Des has sort of given us a free rein this year to play what we see and blokes to push into holes and give us options inside and out.
"With that I'm sure you'll see Jamie and I running the ball a lot more and taking the line on."
Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler will name his side for Saturday night's opening round home game against Cronulla on Tuesday.