Manly Sea Eagles 2012 season preview

Manly ended last year in second place but how will they measure up after a turbulent off season?

Many pundits are tipping Manly to struggle after the close season soap opera that led to the departure of coach Des Hasler.

Sea Eagles favourite Geoff Toovey has stepped into the hot seat and he will be able to select from one of the best squads in the NRL.

Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart lead the way in the forwards while young the talented half back pairing of Daly Cherry-Evans and Keiran Foran will be out to follow up a hugely impressive 2011.

With Brett Stewart, Jamie Lyon and the destructive Tony Williams capable of opening up any defence, Manly have as much strike power as any other side in the competition.

The loss of teenage sensation Will Hopoate and club stalwarts Shane Rodney and Michael Robertson is tempered by a number of exciting youngsters who are set to build on some promising performances last season.

The Sea Eagles may struggle to match last year’s second placed finish under a rookie coach but they retain far too much class to be written off just yet.

Prediction:  6th  

Players in: Ben Farrar (Catalans)

Players out: Michael Robertson, Shane Rodney (Both London),  Jamil Hopoate (Eels) and Will Hopoate (Two-year mission)

Coach: Geoff Toovey – Club legend who makes the jump from assistant to head coach following the departure of Des Hasler. Toovey worked under Hasler since 2004 so his appointment ensures continuity.  

Star man: Brett Stewart – The deadly fullback put his personal troubles behind him to end 2011 with 14 tries in just 19 games. A top class performer, when Stewart plays well so do Manly. 

Breakthrough year: Jamie Buhrer – Headguard wearing back rower who made some impressive contributions off the bench. Intelligent footballer who will take on an even bigger role in 2012.

Young gun: James Cunningham – Highly regarded prop forward who impressed in the Toyota Cup last year and tipped to make his first grade debut this season.

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