While it may have ended abruptly, the 2017 season was a tremendous success for the Manly Sea Eagles. Finishing sixth after 26 rounds, Manly fans were treated to a show each week with DCE, Akuila Uate and the Trbojevic brothers steering the ship in attack. The departure of Blake Green opens the door for a boom cheapie, while the introduction of Joel Thompson on the edge will be intriguing to watch through the opening rounds. So, while Manly may be the most hated team in the competition, they have become a SuperCoach gold mine in the last few years and here is our analysis of the top buys from the Northern Beaches in 2018.
Ins: Jack Gosiewski (Rabbitohs), Toafofoa Sipley (Warriors, 2019), Lachlan Croker (Raiders, 2018), Joel Thompson (Dragons, 2019).
Outs: Pita Godinet (Wests Tigers), Blake Green (Warriors), Brenton Lawrence (retired), Jesse Martin (Rabbitohs), Steve Matai (retired), Brett Stewart (retired), Billy Bainbridge, Jarrad Kennedy, Joey Lussick (released).
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Akuila Uate 3. Brian Kelly 4. Matthew Wright 5. Jorge Taufua 6. Lachlan Croker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Marty Taupau 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Addin Fonua-Blake 11. Curtis Sironen 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Jack Gosiewski 15. Kelepi Tanginoa 16. Lloyd Perrett 17. Frank Winterstein
The biggest change for Manly this season comes in the halves. Boom rookie Lachlan Croker is expected to partner DCE following a strong pre-season that saw him named by officials as the fittest man at the club. Croker’s credentials were only solidified by a strong showing against the Roosters in Gosford last weekend. Elsewhere, Dylan Walker was always going to be racing the clock to be fit for round one following a horror leg break in September last year and won’t be back until at least Round 5. Matt Wright is tipped to replace the superstar centre. Luckily for Manly fans, Darcy Lussick’s ankle injury isn’t as bad as first thought, with Addin Fonua Blake to take his place for the first three rounds. New recruit Joel Thompson will take his place in the second-row, while Jake Trbojevic and Jorge Taufua are expected to make their returns from their respective pectoral and ACL injuries in Round 1.
First Six Rounds: Knights (A), Eels (H), Rabbitohs (A), Raiders (H), Titans (A), Tigers (H)
The Sea Eagles start the year with an extremely favourable draw, only playing one team from last season’s top eight and four of last year’s bottom five. Additionally, Manly will play three games at Lottoland, and the only trip outside of New South Wales comes in the form of an unusual away fixture against the Titans in Gladstone. This should bode favourably for Dylan Walker and Darcy Lussick, who will have recovered from their injuries by the time the tougher matchups begin in round seven. The easy draw will also provide rookie Lachlan Croker with an easier transition into a full-time role in the halves.
From there however, the draw becomes stiff for the team from the Northern Beaches, with NRL.com estimating the Sea Eagles’ draw as the sixth hardest in the competition. Rounds 7-14 sees Manly travel to Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and Christchurch in a tough stretch of games that includes all of last year’s top four and eventual runners-up the Cowboys. Thankfully for Sea-Eagles supporters, Manly will only play one away game from Round 17 to Round 23, only having to travel as far as Cronulla to face the Sharks.
Tom Trbojevic ($677,300, FLB)
Rarely will a SuperCoach ever see the previous season’s top averaging player hold an ownership percentage of less than 20% leading into round one of an NRL season. But for Tom Trbojevic’s 19.1% of owners (including myself), this is the sweet, sweet reality of 2018.
2017 was a breakout season for the man affectionately known as “Turbo”, improving his average from 65 to a whopping 76.3, edging out Paul Gallen for the title of highest season average (Brodie Croft averaged 76.8 but only played four games). Turbo recovered from a shocking 34 in round one against the Eels to average 73 in the pre-origin period, before going berserk post-origin averaging 88.88. With a base stat average of 30 points per game and reasonable coefficient of variance of 44%, expect Trbojevic to shoulder more of the attacking burden in the absence of Blake Green and average well over 70 again this season.
For most serious SuperCoaches (41.7% of us to be exact), James Tedesco is firmly locked into our round one squads – leaving the second fullback slot to be occupied by either Kalyn Ponga or Tom Trbojevic. Unfortunately, the reduction in dual position players this season has robbed us of the opportunity to own all three talented fullbacks, but for me, Manly’s favourable opening draw means that Turbo gets the nod even at his price point.
Jake Trbojevic ($651,000, 2RF)
As if there wasn’t enough SuperCoach production coming from the Trbojevic family, older brother Jake also had a stellar year in 2017 to become the sixth highest averaging player in the competition. Remarkably, despite being just $16,300 cheaper, Jurbo’s ownership will start 11% higher than his brother’s at 30.1%.
2017 was much of the same for Jake, as he pumped out an average of 73.3 to hold the second most points at season’s end behind Paul Gallen. Thanks to a huge base stat average of 57, he scored over 60 in 70% of his games, giving him an extremely consistent coefficient of variance of 28%. Jurbo also chimed in from time to time with attacking stats, using that famous ‘sixth sense’ with brother Tom to score nine tries last season. The question is, can he maintain that this year?
Interestingly, rumours have surfaced in the past two weeks that Jurbo has been goalkicking and converting at 90% (yes, you read that correctly) during the preseason. Should he get the nod over DCE for the kicking duties, then his ownership is at a criminally low level. Regardless, Jurbo gets the tick of approval and a spot in my second row.
Daly Cherry-Evans ($548,000, HFB)
For the past few SuperCoach seasons, Shaun Johnson, Johnathan Thurston and Anthony Milford have dominated the halves scoring. But trailing just behind has been the million-dollar man himself, DCE.
While 2017 may have ended disappointingly for Manly fans, it was a terrific year for DCE’s Supercoach output. He improved his overall average to 62 and scored over 60 in 50% of his games. Additionally, DCE comes with a higher floor than most halves, with his base average of 27 bettering that of Morgan (20), Thurston (16) and Johnson (19) and matching Nathan Cleary and Mitchell Pearce. With no Blake Green in the team, DCE becomes the sole playmaker at Manly in 2017 – which should create a marked improvement in his attacking potential.
Personally, I believe the price of Thurston is too good to pass up at halfback, but should any POD hunters out there be looking for an alternative, DCE is a great option at a similar price. Most Supercoaches are set on not picking DCE each year and maybe it’s time we backflip on that opinion.
Martin Taupau ($575,900, FRF)
Rounding out the Supercoach Guns at Manly this season is the human hulk Martin Taupau. With a distinct lack of viable Front Row guns this year, Taupau could be the man to fill the void.
With a 123% increase in his offload numbers, Taupau quickly turned from a SuperCoach plodder to a SuperCoach gun in 2017. While his average minutes per game reduced from 65 to 52, a monster PPM increase of 0.3 to 1.25, along with a base average of 46 saw Marty fall agonisingly short of becoming a 60/60 gun – scoring over 60 in 57% of his games.
Interestingly, Taupau averaged a whopping 74.3 PPG without Darcy Lussick in the side compared to just 57.8 PPG with Lussick. Considering Darcy Lussick will be out for at least the first three weeks of the season with an ankle injury, Taupau could be a terrific POD option for those wishing to get off to a flyer in 2018 – something that will be crucial with the new bye structure.
Dylan Walker ($494,000, CTW)
Coinciding with his move back to the centres, Dylan Walker improved his average by a respectable eleven points in 2017. Entering his third season on the Northern Beaches, one could be forgiven for thinking that Walker’s rise will continue as his combinations with DCE and Turbo continue to improve
However, Walker suffered a horrific broken leg and dislocated ankle while playing for the Prime Minister’s XIII in Port Moresby in September, and will miss the first four weeks of the season. As Walker begins to gain confidence in his leg, expect a slow start to his Supercoach scoring, à la Josh Mansour last season.
Apisai Koroisau ($515,500, HOK)
There’s no doubting that Cameron Smith is the king of the hooker position, but for those like me who prefer to seek value in the position and pick up Smith later on, Koroisau is the ultimate POD option at just 2.6% ownership.
While Koroisau’s 2017 average of 58 may seem reasonable for a hooker of his calibre, a closer inspection of his season shows that only twice did Koroisau play more than 70 minutes in a game, for two scores of 96. If the predictions are correct and Trent Barrett elects to play four forwards on the bench with no utility, Koroisau could be one of the sleepers of the year, providing owners with an easy stepping stone to Cameron Smith or even a keeper to ride for the year.
Additionally, Manly’s favourable draw bodes well for Koroisau, whose second, fourth and highest averages come against the Rabbitohs, Knights and Tigers respectively.
Addin Fonua-Blake ($303,400, FRF)
Addin Fonua-Blake averaged a measly 34 in 2017, but with a PPM hovering around 1, AFB has some superCoaches (including last year’s winner Sam Rohlf) excited for 2018. With the lack of cheap starting Front Row options this season, we may be forced to take a harder look at AFB come TLT should he get the starting role. Minutes will obviously be the deciding factor.
Lachlan Croker ($164,600, HFB, 5/8)
Unheralded five-eighth Lachlan Croker has been elected as the man to replace Blake Green at Manly in 2018.
Jake Trbojevic stated, “Lachlan is good with the ball in his hands and is really composed. He knows how to get the ball to the right people at the right time. He is very similar to ‘Greeny’… He’ll get the start there and he’s got the backing of the full squad.”
At just $164,600, Croker must be locked into every SuperCoach team and with an ownership of 49.3%, we are left to wonder what 50.7% of coaches are doing without him. Unfortunately, Croker is extremely injury prone, contracting a serious shoulder injury in his NRL debut last year to add to two torn ACL’s and one PCL injury in the last four years.
Fingers crossed Lachlan Croker isn’t Jaelen Feeney or Ben Henry 2.0.