We’re sorry – we know you love them. We love them, too, in our way.
Yet there’s no getting around it; The Champion doesn’t see it.
There’ll be no top-8 for these Manly Sea Eagles. Not this year.
Okay, scratch that: maybe they make top-8. Scrape in. If the best XVII is fit and the non-religious ones don’t have lingering resentment for the religious ones who rooted the club’s season by pulling out of a must-win game against the Roosters that begat a seven-match losing streak.
But even then, it’ll be only just. According to bookies they’re a coin toss – and that’s with Tom Trbojevic fit. That hamstring goes again – and it hurts even to think it – but if it does, well, Manly’s down there with Danny the Dolphin.
Either way they’re on the fringe. Call ’em fringe-dwellers. Better than the cellar. But in terms of the success expected of these mighty Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, in punting parlance, sorry, we prefer others.
Yes! Granted! Not a single stud has touched a single Steeden in anger in this new normal year of 2023, and the clown editor of this local journal – a bloody Canberra Raiders fan, of all bloody things, he has a newsletter, he even wrote a book – has effectively written off a team that’s won premierships in every decade since 1972?
So there is that.
But there is also this: the ham-bones of the Great Turbo. Let us pray for them. For the Sea Eagles’ fortunes, as Paul Kelly sang of Don Bradman, ride in the palm of his hands.
The man’s a champion at just 26 and with Jimmy Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell remains the very testing material among the outside backs in the National Rugby League.
What a player. Attack or defence or flying through the air, he’s a force of nature.
And Manly can’t make the eight without him. And even if he stays fit he’ll be off to play for someone else in the hurly burly of State of Origin. And that’s hardly resting up.
So good is Turbo and such is the fortune that Manly’s had to divvy up between he and brother Jake Trbojevic (and Ben Trbojevic a little bit, too), and superstar half Daly Cherry-Evans, well, with the greatest respect to Reuben Garrick, Jason Saab (back by round 10), Christian Tuipulotu and Tolutau Koula, there’s not much left out the back.
There is a bit elsewhere.
Josh Schuster, particularly, his great-uncle John Schuster was an inside centre with the All Blacks and Newcastle Knights and ran super fine lines. Anything like a Gasnier-to-Gasnier lineage handed down and Manly will have a hot one. The kid is big, light on his feet, skilful and his no-look pass from five-eighth is NRL best practice. And he looks fit. And maybe this is the year he breaks out, gets spoken of around the Big O.
Again, prefer others.
The forwards, meanwhile, look strong and well-balanced.
Josh Aloiai, Sean Keppie, Taniela Paseka, Toa Sipley – belters all.
Jake Trbojevic will work his ring out and run middle or wide of the ruck with the ball in two hands and knock out the all-action footy he’s renowned for. He’s a beauty, Jake Turbo, the beating heart of the footy club.
Karl Lawton will do good Karl Lawton, Ben Trbojevic will run on an edge and mighty Haumole Olakau’atu has the dynamic X-factor to change a game by tearing into the line and using his very strong octopus arms to pop pill from the maelstrom and set speed men free. Love the Shmole.
Lawton will also know occasional forays out of dummy-half where Manly (still) has issues. Lachlan Croker is a five-eighth, a 26-year-old called Nathaniel Roache is on a train-and-trial from the Warriors via the Eels and Manase Fainu is in jail until 2026.
One thing in Manly’s favour is that their religious players who believe God created homosexual people so he could condemn them to Hell for being homosexual people won’t be forced to wear a rainbow on their jumpers and display support for homosexual people.
Which is nice for them. Top stuff.
You wonder, though, if The Seven have ever really had it out with the Turbos and other senior players about so rooting last season with their religious boycott.
The game with the Roosters was must-win. And yet seven players – team-mates, ‘brothers’ – didn’t want to play? It had to create a schism. It did. You wonder how large the remaining cracks.
Meanwhile our man Aloiai has told The Sydney Morning Herald that he likes the idea of Peter V’landys‘ ‘Respect Round’ because it would show respect for gay people and it would also show respect for the religious views of people who think gay people will go to hell unless they stop being gay people.
Something like it, you could spin this shit like Ravi Ashwin on that Indore bunsen.
Anyway. For all that, for mine, the only way Manly sneaks into the eight is if Tommy Turbo stays fit.
And that’s why bookies rate them $2.10, a coin toss, to make it.
Lay them now.
Because, I fear, not this year.