Full Time
3:00pm Sat March 4, 2023
Round 1 - 4 Pines Park, Brookvale / Cammeraygal - Crowd: 17278

Round 1: Sea Eagles v Bulldogs preview

New eras get underway

It's a battle of the new at 4 Pines Park on Saturday as the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles go head to head with the Canterbury Bulldogs.

Fresh off winning the inaugural Pre Season Challenge. Manly are hoping that they will be able to shake the Pride Jersey debacle away under the guidance of new coach Anthony Seibold. Seibold's appointment was met with scepticism by opposition fans and critics across social media, however from the outside looking in, it looks as if Seibold's time away from the game has done him some good. 

He has corrected his previous mistakes, embraced the old boys of the club and brought them into talk with the current crop. More importantly, there's a distinctive change in the way Manly looked in the trials with a devastating display of attacking football in the first half against the Roosters in their second trial. While their recruitment and lack of depth has been looked at as a potential weakness, Manly will be a team that competes for every minute, bringing pride back to the Manly jumper that was distinctively missing in Des Hasler's final days.

Manly's opening 2023 line-up sees the return of Tom Trbojevic. Turbo brings a distinctive flare to the Eagles attack and the game is always better when he is on the field producing his scintillating best, let's hope for Manly fans that Turbo plays the maximum number of games he can. It isn't all good news with backrower turned 5/8 Josh Schuster succumbing to a calf injury sustained against the Roosters. Preseason standout Cooper Johns has earned a start at 5/8. New recruit Kelma Tuliagi wins the vacant backrow spot left by Schuster's move to 5/8. Jake Trbojevic will make the move to prop, with Sean Keppie starting at lock. Kaeo Weekes wins the empty utility spot while Ben Trbojevic, Ethan Bullemor and Josh Aloiai win bench positions.

It seems to be Groundhog Day at Belmore. Yet another new era begins with Cameron Ciraldo taking charge of the Bulldogs for the first time. This rebuild seems different to the ones undertaken by Dean Pay and Trent Barrett before him. There is sizable talent brought to the club with Viliame Kikau and Reed Mahoney arriving over Summer. Whilst a lot has been said about the talent arriving at Belmore this year, these signings will make a sizable impact to a roster that was showing signs of improvement under Mick Potter last season. 

Canterbury's line-up from last season has undergone a major surgical change. New buy Hayze Perham takes over the vacant fullback spot with Jake Averillo joining debutant Paul Alamoti in the centres. Alamoti has starred in junior level and his debut has been one that NRL fans have been keen to see. Raymond Faitala-Mariner will start on the edge with Kikau. Nu Brown is the surprise inclusion at lock following Luke Thompson's training breakdown on Tuesday. Jayden Tanner is a shock winner of the 14 jumper while pre-season standouts Franklin Pele and Jacob Preston make their club debut while for the latter it'll be his first grade debut.

Last meeting: Round 25 2022 - Bulldogs 21 Sea Eagles 20

Who to watch: Well, he's back again folks. After another injury interrupted season, Tom Trbojevic is set to be freed from his hamstring problems. Under an intensive off-season workout from renowned trainer Bill Knowles. Manly fans and rugby league fans in general will be hopeful we see him return to his 2021 form which saw him become the best in the game. His game won't change drastically under Anthony Seibold, so expect a fast start from the man they call Turbo to get Manly off to a perfect start in 2023. 

With the sudden rise of Jeremy Marshall-King in 2022, Bulldogs fans were concerned that their sizable investment in Reed Mahoney would be an overspend. However, the Bulldogs need not panic. Mahoney has been a breath of fresh air in the Bulldogs which will allow Kikau and Thompson to go to another level in 2023. With a favourable matchup against a Manly side that was slow around the rucks last season, this could be a statement game for Mahoney to show how he'll be effective and dangerous in 2023. 

The favourite: Canterbury are the favourites to start 2023 with a victory. Canterbury won the most recent clash between these sides which in fact was the final round of 2022 to the tune of 21-20.

My tip: With both clashes being decided by a solitary point last season, I expect this match to be very close as both sides try to find their rhythm in season 2023. It'll be a match where the class and experience of the new signings will show their class especially Mahoney in and around the ruck. With that in mind, my prediction has the Bulldogs starting the Cameron Ciraldo era in style. Bulldogs by 6.