Sea Eagles set to shade it; RUGBY LEAGUE.
MANLY SEA EAGLES have done plenty of soul searching in the off-season following their failure to reach the NRL playoffs last year, writes Matthew Ireland.
The eight-time champions have lived off a diet of success for a long time, but last season's ninthplaced finish was not good enough for a club of Manly's standing and they kick off the new term against Canterbury Bulldogs today, a totally unrecognisable side.
Seven players, plus new coach Trent Barrett, will make their Manly bows this morning and bookmakers make them a 4-6 shot to make a winning start to the campaign.
With so many changes to the side combinations can take time to develop but Barrett has recruited extremely well to ensure last season fast becomes a distant memory and the likes of new forwards Martin Taupau and Nate Myles will add plenty of grunt to what is already a fearsome pack. Creativity and guile will come from former Rabbitoh Dylan Walker and Queensland star Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves.
Opponents Canterbury were dealt a huge blow on the eve of the new season with Australia international Brett Morris needing knee surgery that will months. New recruit Will Hopoate will fill the void at full-back in the meantime and Morris aside, coach Des Hasler has kept faith with the majority of the squad that finished fifth in 2015.
New South Wales playmaker Trent Hodkinson has left for Newcastle, however, and his calming influence on the talented, but sometimes erratic, Josh Reynolds could be missed in the opening stages of the season. Reynolds new half-back partner will be young gun Moses Mbye.
It promises to be a tight opening encounter at Brookvale Oval, but with an extremely talented squad take the Sea Eagles to come out on top by up to two converted
Ace half: Daly Cherry-Evans