After falling short of the premiership last season, will 2022 be the year they take out the title? (Photo: Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)

The Manly Sea Eagles are looking to put the heartbreak of missing out on the 2021 grand final behind them as they prepare for the new season

It was a crushing defeat against the South Sydney Rabbitohs which saw them knocked out of premiership contention in last year’s preliminary finals. But with the new NRL season only weeks away, the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles will be looking to bounce back from their previous heartbreak and aim to soar through to become the last team standing.

Last year

What began as a horror start to their 2021 campaign, encompassed by their infamous loss of the first four games and discussion surrounding the futures of both coach Des Hasler and captain Daly Cherry-Evans, the Sea Eagles quickly turned around their fortunes.

A one-point win against the New Zealand Warriors in round five kick started their season, and upon the return of star fullback Tom Trbojevic the Sea Eagles season was quickly headed in the right direction.

In his first game back Trbojevic put in a classy performance that consisted of three try assists as well as being a crucial part of the pass that helped to win the game, and it was only up from there.

2022 NRL Season Preview – Manly Warringtah Sea Eagles. (Photo: @SeaEagles Twitter)

Despite losses against the Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs, St George Illawarra Dragons and Penrith Panthers, the Sea Eagles were soaring at the beginning of their finals campaign.

Manly’s finals run started off with a crushing loss to the Melbourne Storm 40 – 12, but followed that up with a win against the Sydney Roosters 42 – 6.

Their premiership run was short lived however after the Rabbitohs clinched a 36-16 victory securing their spot in the decider.

It was a season to remember for 25-year-old Trbojevic whose stellar performance was capped off with winning both the Dally M Player of the Year Award and the club Best and Fairest. He also was the club’s top try scorer with 28 as well as receiving the NRL Leading Try Scorer, NRL Players’ Player and the Gordon Willoughby Medallion for Best Player awards. 

Jason Saab and Josh Schuster’s performances also impressed, being announced joint winners of the Ken Arthurson rising star award. 

Reuben Garrick was another player for Manly who proved significant for the season, taking out the NRL’s Leading Point Scorer award after stunning with 334 points. 

Squad changes


Ethan Bullemor (Brisbane Broncos)


Curtis Sironen, Cade Cust, Moses Suli (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jack Gosiewski (St George Illawarra Dragons), Tevita Funa and Zac Saddler.

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Track watch

The Sea Eagles have been dealt some early injury blows this preseason after it was reported that Schuster is set to miss the first six weeks with a syndesmosis injury. Fellow second rower Haumole Olakau’atu also suffered an elbow injury which has him in doubt for round one.

As the clock ticks down to round one of the 2022 season, the Sea Eagles will be closely examining a number of other players who are a potential to return following injuries sustained last year.

Morgan Boyle is likely to return following a stint on the sidelines for a shoulder injury in the February trials.

Meanwhile, Andrew Davey whose season was cut short in 2021 as a result of a long-term knee injury is set to return for the new year.

Toafofoa Sipley is determined to make the most of his preseason after missing out the chance to play in the finals last year.

2022 NRL Season Preview – Manly Warringtah Sea Eagles. (Photo: @SeaEagles Twitter)

He admits that he understands the situation and hopes to utilise it heading into the new season.

“I felt like I did my part to be able to play in the finals, but it is what it is. I sat down with Des and he was really opened as to why I didn’t play,’’ Sipley told nrl.com recently.

“It was kind of a blessing in disguise. The silver lining I take from it is that it has put a chip on my shoulder this season to show why I should have played in the finals.”

What to expect

With a couple of early injuries expect the Sea Eagles depth to be severely tested.

With Schuster, Olakau’atu and Josh Aloiai all slated to be missing for the early part of the season, 2022 marks the second consecutive year that the side will set off a new season without a key part of their team.

Having those significant names out will require the Sea Eagles to develop the younger guns, especially in the forward pack, in order to put them in premiership contention this year.

Also underscoring the importance of developing their youth is the question surrounding veteran Kieran Foran‘s future. Granted that he’s signed to play on for 2022 season, yet with previous injuries to his name at 31 years of age, time will tell for how much longer he decides to play on for.

It’s a big year for?

Haumole Olakau’atu

Since making his debut in the NRL in 2019, Haumole Olakau’atu has become one of Manly, and the league’s most exciting young prospects.

It was in 2021 however that the 23-year-old really made his mark in the competition. In 28 games appearances, he scored eight tries, had seven line breaks and 17 offloads were what made up his breakout year.

Defence is strength for him, highlighted strongly in his appearance in round 25 against the Cowboys where a passage of play he was involved in drew comparisons to former rugby league player Greg Inglis.

With performances showing his electrifying athleticism that impressed, Olakau’atu was nominated for the Dally M second-rower of the year award. If he can continue to put out performances like the one he had in his breakout year, there’s no doubt that it will help Manly out to put up more impressive wins on the board.

Biggest unanswered question

Is there too much of a dependence on Tom Trbojevic?

It was a standout year for the 25-year-old. Just in 2021 alone, Trbojevic finished the year with 28 tries, 28 try assists, 124 tackle breaks, and 33 line breaks from 18 games. Whilst his performance was no doubt incredible, questions were raised over whether there was too much of an onus on Trbojevic during games.

When examining games, there is a stark contrast in comparison to games without last years’ Dally M medallist.

The sea Eagles rely on Trbojevic to cover up a glaring problem in their team make up, their lack of run out of dummy-half. While Lachlan Croker has done an admirable job since taking over the position, he is a pass first hooker making the Sea Eagles style of play extremely predictable.

There is risk basing an entire game plan around Trbojevic, particularly with his history of hamstring injuries.

Heading in 2022, supporters will be hoping the likes of Garrick, Croker, Foran and Cherry-Evans reproduce a season similar to the ones had in 2021 and play more than just a supporting role in their winning games.

Coach pressure index


Despite criticism aimed at Des Hasler at the beginning of the 2021 season, the controversy seems minimal given the success he has to his name since the origins of his coaching career in 2004.

With two premierships for Manly to his name, Hasler heads into the 2022 season hunting for his third. Hasler is one of the least under-threat coaches at this point in time given that in the 17 seasons with Manly, he failed to make finals three times – two of those times whilst heading the Sea Eagles.

If last season is anything to go by, he heads into the new season with motivation to improve from their position last year. With good rapport with players it seems, Hasler looks set to continue being basked in support by fans and the club.

2022 NRL Season Preview – Manly Warringtah Sea Eagles. (Photo: @SeaEagles Twitter)

Predicted round one line up

The Sea Eagles depth looks set to be tested early in the season. With Schuster set for an extended stint on the sidelines expect new recruit Ethan Bullemor to have an extended run in the second row in an attempt to secure his spot in the team.

Karl Lawton and Sean Keppie should get first crack in the forward pack, replacing Olakau’tau and Aloiai respectively.

While the pressure will be on centre pairing Morgan Harper and Brad Parker with young Tolutau Koula waiting in the wings ready to seize his opportunity.

Ladder range

3rd – 6th

Though there is the question whether they’ll be able to bounce from a horror start should they have one again this season, the Sea Eagles have a strong foundation which makes up their squad for 2022 that can be beneficial for them.

Manly have the advantage being one of the only teams in the competition with a roster that is pretty much unchanged, with an exception of Bullemor. This means that they’ll be able to continue to build cohesion together as a group.

Whilst it is fair to ask if the Sea Eagles can move past from a one sided affair with Trbojevic, there is plenty of young talent and veteran power that makes up the strong front of Manly.

However, there shouldn’t be any surprise if the Sea Eagles make an appearance in the grand final and ultimately take out the title for a ninth time in their club history.

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