Wests Tigers v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles preview
Sat 9 Mar 2019, 07:01 AM
The Tigers surprised everyone with the fast start last season and were still right in top contention in the final weeks before falling by the wayside and finishing ninth with a 12-12 record.
The biggest change in the off-season was in the coach’s chair, with Michael Maguire appointed as Ivan Cleary’s successor.
There’s a liberal sprinkling of talent and experience throughout the squad but there doesn’t appear to be much room for error for this team and a finals berth would be an over-achievement.
The Sea Eagles lurched from one crisis to another last year and were one of the season’s most disappointing teams.
Des Hasler has returned as coach and Manly fans are hoping he weaves some of his old magic.
The battle between the halves should be crucial to the outcome of this Saturday evening meeting. Manly added Kane Elgey from the Titans in the off-season to play alongside Daly Cherry-Evans, while the Tigers stood pat with Benji Marshall and Luke Brooks, with Josh Reynolds coming off the bench.
For the Tigers to win
The aforementioned trio of playmakers need to have a big say if the Tigers are going to prevail. If the likes of Russell Packer and Ben Matulino can regularly dent the Manly defence, Benji, Brooks and Reynolds can cause all kinds of damage.
For the Sea Eagles to win
The absence of injured fullback Tom Trbojevic and centre Dylan Walker robs Manly of some serious strike power and puts the onus on other players to pick up the slack. The Sea Eagles will be looking to gain an advantage up front through Martin Taupau, Addin Fonua-Blake and Apisai Koroisau.
And another thing
Two teams with new coaches who have each won a premiership. Former Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire is happy to be back in the NRL but has a tough job repeating last year’s ninth placing, let alone making the playoffs. The same goes for Hasler, who was lured back after six years with the Bulldogs and faces an uphill battle to get the Sea Eagles into top eight reckoning.
Tigers Stat Attack
Marshall turned 34 in February and is yet to indicate if this is his last season. Last year he played in 21 games, scoring three tries and averaging 212.5 kicking metres. Farah, 35, rejoined the Tigers last season after his career appeared to be fading out with the Rabbitohs. He played 11 games after returning, registering a try, four try assists and five line break assists.
Sea Eagles Stat Attack
Legend has it that Martin Taupau, who is nicknamed ‘Kapow’, is the NRL’s strongest player. An avid golfer when he’s not playing or training, the 29-year-old was arguably Manly’s most consistent performer last year, playing in all 24 of his team’s games. Taupau racked up 107 tackle breaks and had 1271.7 post contact metres for the season.