Round 1: Roosters v Sea Eagles preview
Roosters and Sea Eagles square off in battle of the birds.
After being bundled out of the finals in straight sets last season despite being heavily supported to capture a rare three-peat of premiership titles, the Roosters will be looking for a fast start in 2021.
Not being able to make it three straight premierships is one thing, but the manner in which they were bundled out in consecutive losses to the Panthers and Raiders would have left Coach Trent Robinson bitterly disappointed given his insatiable appetite in striving for perfection.
They will have to navigate a large chunk of the season without skipper Boyd Cordner as he continues to navigate ongoing concerns around the number of concussions he's suffered in recent times. That will give boom back-rower Sitili Topouniua a chance to further show his wares after an impressive breakout season in 2020.
The other big change to last year's squad sees Luke Keary make a permanent shift into the number seven jersey after Kyle Flanagan failed to impress the tri-colours hierarchy last season before hitting the exit door to join the Bulldogs.
Struggling without the services of their gun custodian for a large chunk of 2020, Manly will again have to do without Tom Trbojevic for the early rounds as he continues his quest to get his hamstrings back to 100 per cent.
Who to watch: One of the Roosters' linchpins in their recent run of success, Luke Keary running out in the number seven only confirms what many have suspected for a while - destined to assume a dominant halves role. Since moving to the tri-colours, Keary has been simply brilliant whether playing alongside a more dominant half in Cooper Cronk or taking the reins himself. Like Cordner, the diminutive Keary has had his own share of concussion problems in recent times, but if he can stay fit and healthy he should be in for a big year.
Apart from a brief one year stint from Blake Green, Manly have struggled to lock in a quality replacement at pivot since Kieran Foran packed his bags for Parramatta at the end of 2015. So, they've gone back to the well in an attempt to rejuvenate the premiership halves duo of Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans. Of course, a lot has happened and not a lot good in Foran's career since leaving the Northern beaches with his body letting him down on a regular basis. There's no doubting when fit and healthy, Foran is a brilliant footballer capable of matching it with the very best. The former Kiwi international will be out to make a big impression in his first game back in maroon and white.
My tip: It wasn't that long ago when there was nothing more dangerous than a Des Hasler coached team flying under the radar. That could still turn out to be the case and it won't surprise to seem them hold their own for a fair chunk of this contest, but it's hard to see them matching strides with a Roosters outfit still oozing class. Roosters by 14.
Sydney Roosters Form Guide
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Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Form Guide
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