‘We’re hoping to put on a 2021-like display’: Manly stars looking to go back to the future under Seibold
There’s a bit of a 2021 vibe around the place at Brookvale Oval.
Not just in that the Sea Eagles are confident, as confident as they have been since their last top four finish, but also in the style of footy that they are committed to this time around.
Last year started in the same vein, with Manly – for what it’s worth – winning the Pre Season Challenge and then picking up statement wins early in the year over Parramatta and Melbourne, but ended much like 2022, with Tom Trbojevic injured and a regular season slide that saw the team miss the eight.
Anthony Seibold has his feet well under the desk on the Northern Beaches, and a year into the job, it seems like his style of footy is starting to stick.
Though Seibold is now in and Des Hasler exiled to the Gold Coast, more than one of the Manly players spoke to by The Roar referred back to that miraculous year of 2021, both in terms of the success that the team enjoyed and the ultra-offensive style of football that was encouraged under the iteration of the rules at the time.
“I love attacking, that’s my favourite thing!” said 2021 breakout star Jason Saab, who ran in 23 tries that year.
“We’ve got some crafty ball players and Tom Trbojevic out the back, so we’re hoping to put on a 2021-like display of attack this year.
“We’ve got Brooks as well now, so it’s looking to build those combinations and see where we go.
“We’ve got speed on our edges, big middles like Nella (Paseka) and ball-players like Jakey (Trbojevic) and (Nathan) Brownie. We’re trying to play to our strengths.”
Those strengths were a key part of the messaging at Brookvale. Seibold recently revealed that his side would be looking to shake things up in the NRL – “we don’t want to do what everyone else does” were his exact words – and that was already there to be seen late last year, as a depleted side put on some of the most unorthodox footy seen in a long time.
Now, according to Reuben Garrick, that mentality is bedding in nicely.
“It took us a while last year to find our identity last year,” he told The Roar.
“Obviously with Seibs coming in as a new coach, it’s hard to do everything that you want to straight away. It took us a while to find what was going to work and I think you saw that towards the end of last year.
“The way we were playing, we weren’t trying to play that real grindy stuff, we were playing our footy and what suits us best.
“That’s what you saw at the end of last year, and something that we want to take on into this year for sure. At times we have to play that high percentage style, but that comes off the back of playing how we want to.
“There’s no dead plays. You always want to be pushing for your teammates, presenting a shape, even if it makes as little impact as pulling a defender off for your mate to have a good run.
“It comes back to the effort areas – pushing for your mate, presenting shape – that’s an effort and something that a lot of teams probably don’t buy into.
“Presenting a shape helps the halves and the fullback, because when they come out the back they’ve got it there set. You’re telling them what you’re running and where you’re at so they can worry about what’s on at the ruck and what opportunities are here.
“They come out and know that something is set and they can chime straight into it. They only have to worry about the decision on the end of it rather than trying to organise us as well.”
As ever, the ringleader in chief will be Daly Cherry-Evans, and he was backing Seibold’s offensive strategy to the hilt.
“We’ve been really big on focusing on things we can control this year, and a big thing is playing to our strengths,” said the Manly captain.
“Each individual has strengths and weaknesses as a footy player and we like it when our footy reflects the style that makes them happy. That’s your best footy, right?
“We’re encouraging people to play to their strengths and bring their best game, we hope that brings a more positive attitude to training and ultimately brings more results.
“It hasn’t just been attack – we’re trying to bring those attributes in defence – but we’ve definitely got a lot of attacking power.
“We certainly haven’t forgot about the defensive side of the game, and let’s remember, Jake Trbojevic’s best weapon is his amazing defence.
“We had nothing to lose at the end of last year and said ‘you know what, let’s really enjoy this, let’s challenge other teams with our strengths’.
“We didn’t win them all but we played a brand of footy that everyone was proud of and excited about and hopefully our best 17 can turn all of these positives into some wins.”
DCE now has assistance in the form of Luke Brooks, who is looking to reignite his career at Manly after almost a decade at the Wests Tigers.
“He’s quality,” said Cherry-Evans of his new halves partner.
“People can write what they want about him but the proof’s in the pudding and he’s a good player.
“He hasn’t had results on the team level but he’s played some really good footy across his 200 games. I’m excited that he’s at Manly, I know what he’s going to bring and I think he makes us a better team this year.”
Garrick was already impressed with his new five eighth, and said that he fitted perfectly into the new mentality at Manly.
“I love the way he backs his game, it’s really good to see,” he told The Roar.
“In training, he’s manning that left edge and organising them, and he’s not afraid to run the ball, ever.
“He makes the right option a lot of the and he’s a left-foot kicker as well. For the last five or so years, we’ve had a dominant kicker with Chez but it’ll free him up a bit more and we’ll be able to kick both sides of the field, which a lot of sides don’t have.”