The Sea Eagles had a season to forget in 2018, finishing second last despite having two of the most talented players in the competition in the Trbojevic brothers and two other representative stars. They’ve since departed ways with the coach, Trent Barrett, and he has been replaced by Des Hasler in a step-back in time. The returning premiership coach is getting the gang back together by employing Brett Stewart and former members of the strength and conditioning team as he looks for significant improvement in 2019.
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2019 GAINS & LOSSES
Gains: Jade Anderson (2019), Cade Cust (2019), Kane Elgey (Gold Coast Titans, 2020), Brendan Elliot (Gold Coast Titans, 2019), Reuben Garrick (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2019), Trent Hodkinson (Cronulla Sharks, 2019), Albert Hopoate (2019), Sean Keppie (2019), Semisi Kioa(2019), Luke Metcalf (2019), Haumole Olakau’atu (2019), Corey Waddell (Penrith Panthers, 2019)
Losses: Lewis Brown (retired), Jackson Hastings (Salford Red Devils), Brian Kelly (Gold Coast Titans), Shaun Lane (Parramatta Eels), Darcy Lussick (Toronto Wolfpack), Joey Lussick (Salford Red Devils), Akuila Uate (Huddersfield Giants), Jonathan Wright (retired), Tom Wright (rugby union)
The improvement will need to largely come from organic growth as although the Sea Eagles have shed some dead weight over the off-season, their recruitment has been a bit meh with their two biggest recruits being Kane Elgey and Brendan Elliott. Hardly inspiring stuff.
Elgey will hope to finally sort out Manly’s halves headache and provide a viable Yin to Daly Cherry-Evans Yang. The loss of Shaun Lane should be offset by the return of Curtis Sironen from a serious knee injury, while Elliot will look to replace one of the departing backs.
LIKELY STARTING 17
1 Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker* 4. Moses Suli 5. Brad Parker / Brendan Elliot 6. Kane Elgey 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Curtis Sironen 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jake Trbojevic Interchange: Manase Fainu / Jack Gosiewski / Frank Winterstein / Lloyd Perrett / Kelepi Tanginoa / Taniela Paseka
* Pending current legal case and is currently not training with the club.
Teams they play twice: Wests Tigers, Warriors, Rabbitohs, Knights, Dragons, Raiders, Titans, Eels, Storm.
Teams they play once: Roosters, Bulldogs, Broncos, Sharks, Panthers, Cowboys.
Teams they play over the first five games: Wests Tigers (away), Roosters, Warriors (home game in NZ), Rabbitohs, Knights (away)
The Sea Eagles face five of 2018’s finalist in the first 12 weeks and play less than half of their games before the bye at Brookvale. Included within their opening 12 rounds are two “home” games that they have sold, including their round 3 clash against the Warriors and a round 9 matchup against the Broncos.
It’s fair to say that they do not have one of the easier starts to the season.
Tom Trbojevic: (Price: $691,200, Position: FLB, 2018 Average: 74)
If you’re a Manly fan surely you are thanking your lucky stars for the Trbojevic brothers! God only knows where this club would be right now without these two superstars of the game.
Let’s start with Tom.
Since his emergence as a talent in 2015, Tom Trbojevic has averaged 65, 76 and 74 PPG from the fullback position. To put that into perspective, just three other players averaged more than 70 PPG in 2017 and eight in 2018. He’s the only FLB to average over 70 in both years with James Tedesco joining him in 2018 at 74 PPG. To put it simply, he’s in absolute rare air.
Why is so bloody good?
He produces assist stats worthy of a leading playmaker with 19 in 2018 (JT produced 26), averages 4.5 tackle busts, 1 offload, 1 line break and 15 hit-ups per game. For a fullback, those are insane numbers.
But wait, before you lock him into your side and throw away the key consider this….. Manly’s opening draw is horrendous with a meeting against five of 2018’s finalists in their first 12 games. In particular the stretch of games between rounds 2 and 6 is extremely tough with games against the Roosters, Warriors (in NZ), Rabbitohs, Knights (away and they’ll be much better this year) and the Dragons (away). In 11 games played against top eight sides last year, Trbojevic averaged just 58 PPG. He averaged a whopping 90 PPG in 11 games against bottom eight sides. Take from this what you will.
At $691k, will you be taking the risk or look to get him at a cheaper price after the bye round?
Jake Trbojevic: (Price: $667,600, Position: 2RF, 2018 Average: 71)
Jake Trbojevic is about as close to an automatic selection as you can get in the game (apart from perhaps his brother). With past season averages of 66, 73 and 71 PPG, it’s almost impossible to overlook him for round 1.
In 2018 he finished second in tackles with 897 and produced a whopping 58 BPPG, which is astonishing and he’s the only player in the game to average more than 55 BPPG with Jason Taumalolo at 55. Effectively, any attacking statistics are going to push him close to a ton and for this very reason he is one of the few captain options week-in-week out.
He’s the first player that I picked this year and given his role as a forward workhorse his output shouldn’t be impacted negatively by the Sea Eagles tough start to the season. This is supported by the fact that in the 11 games during 2018 against top eight sides he averaged 73 PPG compared to 70 PPG against those outside the top eight.
The one big question mark is how Des Hasler will use him and if he will continue his role as an 80 minute lock forward. This is something that we just need to wait to find out, but it’s a risk I’m probably willing to take.
Martin Taupau: (Price: $605,100, Position: FRF, 2018 Average: 65)
Martin Taupau has taken his SuperCoach game to a new level in the past two seasons with back-to-back season averages of 65 PPG.
This output is even more impressive when you consider that his minutes have declined over each season from 65 to 51 MPG. In 2016 he played a significant number of 80 minute games on the edge and a permanent move to the middle has been a big bonus for us SuperCoaches with Taupau one of just 18 players in the game that produced greater than 48 BPPG in 2018. He produced 71 offloads last year, second only to Andrew Fifita with 82 and these two gapped the next player, Esan Masters, by over 20 offloads.
With stats like these it’s easy to understand why Taupau and Fifita were the top two averaging FRF’s for 2018. He’ll more than likely be up there again in 2019 and be one of the must have FRF’s to own by the end of the season.
Daly Cherry-Evans: (Price: $577,400, Position: HFB, 2018 Average: 62)
2018 was Daly Cherry-Evans equal best SuperCoach season with a 62 PPG average in 24 matches.
After a largely uninspiring first 16 games of the season (with just three scores above 60), he was able to average 77 PPG from round 19-26. This saw Cherry-Evans as the equal best averaging HFB along with Nathan Cleary over that period. This run of form coincided with the shift of Walker to the halves and regaining of goal-kicking duties, which added 92 points or 12 PPG to his output. We know that Walker is unlikely to be there given the recruitment of Elgey and Walker’s off-field issues. However, if Elgey is able to provide similar support to what Walker did late in 2018 and Cherry-Evans retains the goal-kicking duties then we could see him live up to the starting price tag, at a minimum.
Whilst I am quite concerned about the Sea Eagles opening draw it’s important to note that in rounds 19-26 last year they won just two of these games, so he’s scoring over this period was not completely defined by them winning.
He’s one of the genuine gun halfbacks in the game and is priced accordingly.
Curtis Sironen: (Price: $398,600, Position: 2RF, 2018 Average: 53.3)
Curtis Sironen’s 2018 was cut short after just four games due to a season ending knee injury. Reports such as this suggest that he is raring to go for for the 2019 season.
Due to the limited games played in 2018 he has received a 10 PPG discount in his 2019 starting price making him to some extent interesting, but I know that it’s tough to get too optimistic about a player in his first season back from an ACL. With that being said, if he can average what he did across those opening four games of the 2018 season (53) this season then he’s set for close to a $100k price rise and maybe more with some early attacking statistics. With Shaun Lane moving on from the Sea Eagles there is certainly an opportunity for Sironen to get big minutes once again.
Moses Suli: (Price: $363,100, Position: CTW, 2018 Average: 39)
Arguably, there is no other player that at the age of 20 has had such a turbulent start to their NRL career.
The Sea Eagles are his third club and surely the last chance for him at making it in first grade. The talented youngster played 15 games in the centres for Manly in 2018 and will start as the red hot favourite to hold this position going into round 1. Given he scored just the one try in 2018 there is certainly opportunity for upside in combination with the fact that he is one of 22 CTW players that averaged in excess of 27 BPPG last year.
Jorge Taufua: (Price: $363,400, Position: CTW, 2018 Average: 39)
Jorge Taufua had a season largely to forget in 2018. His only two tries came in rounds 1 and 2 and the winger was out of the first grade side from round 4 due to injury. He returned in round 12, but once again saw himself on the sidelines between rounds 16-20. He is however now a full year back from an ACL injury that he suffered in 2017 and therefore should be rehabilitated and fit for the 2019 season.
The foundations for a return to past season averages, including a 50 PPG season in 2017, are a strong base output at 29 BPPG. Any real upside will clearly come from an increase in his try scoring with just two tries in 2018 compared to no less than 16 tries per season between 2012 and 2016 and eight in 2017.
If he averages 50 over the first six games of the season his price will increase by close to $100k.
Brendan Elliot: (Price: $233,100, Position: CTW, 2018 Average: 18)
Ok so this is not the most glamorous sleeper prediction, but hear me out.
Elliot is another former Titan that has made the trip south to Manly this off-season after a 2018 season that produced a dismal 18 PPG average in six games. He however, starts the season very cheap at $233k in 2019.
The CTW will look to push Brad Parker for one of the wing spots vacated by the Wright brothers and Akuila Uate and possibly even a centres position if Dylan Walker does not return to the club. He’s cheap enough that he has to come into consideration if he’s selected for round 1 given that he has averaged 49, 37 and 36 in the three seasons prior to 2018. Even if he averages the worst of the past three averages (36) that would still see him increase in value by nearly $100k.
With CTW being such a difficult and unpredictable position to pick from it could be worth taking a punt on one the above mentioned names in the hope of jagging a diamond in the rough or a cash grab until some point in time that the CTW waters become less murky.
Manase Fainu: (Price: $582,200, Position: HOK, 2018 Average: 62)
Manase Fainu made his debut in round 16 due to the absence of Apisai Koroisau and remained in the first grade side for the rest of the season. His final eight game average of 61 saw him in esteem company with only Damien Cook (75), Jake Friend (69) and Jazz Tevaga (69) with better averages for a HOK over this period. This has resulted in him being priced at a premium level to start the season. Koroisau is seemingly fit and looks likely to start the 2019 year at hooker with Fainu coming off the bench. This makes Fainu a clear bust for 2019 at the starting price given that he should only get limited minutes, at least early on. If there’s an injury to Koroisau or he somehow takes over as the clubs main hooker due to form then he will suddenly become an intriguing option.
Albert Hopoate: (Price: $168,100, Position FLB/CTW, 2018 Average: nil)
Hopoate will look to join his father and brother by making his NRL debut in 2019. He’s represented NSW throughout his junior career and there is certainly a lot of hype surrounding him at this stage. He’s spent the majority of 2018 recovering from an ACL, but looks fully recovered now. The one sticking point is the fact that he is yet to turn 18 and the NRL may not let him play before he does so, but Trent Copeland has confirmed to me, via twitter, that Hopoate turns 18 in February and thus, this should not cause us any concern – this ones on you, Trent…
He’s fine. Turns 18 in Feb.
— Trent Copeland (@copes9) January 28, 2019
If he’s able to play this year then there are clear opportunities within the Sea Eagles backline and they may turn to this prodigious talent at some point, despite how young he is.
Monitor him throughout the pre-season and ensure he is on your short list of rookie options.
Reuben Garrick: (Price: 168,100, Position CTW, 2018: nil)
Reuben Garrick is yet to make his NRL debut despite spending the past couple of season in the St George Dragons main squad. He’s another promising centre that was recruited to fill the void of the departures of the Wright brothers and Uate. With Walker’s position in the first grade side also in question there could be up to two to three spots required to be filled from the 2018 backline.
Pencil him into your watch-list and pray that his name is there come Team List Tuesday.
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