They are on the 5th line of premiership betting. They should be favourites. Here’s why…
Manly will win the 2020 premiership.
There, I said it.
With Melbourne’s gradual demise, the Roosters iffy start to the season without Cooper Cronk and Latrell Mitchell and Canberra’s shock loss to Newcastle it has left Parramatta as early season favourites to lift the Provan-Summons trophy in this bizarre, disjointed season.
And while the Eels’ early season form has shown they are blessed with terrific players across the paddock and well suited to the mid-season rule changes implemented by Peter V’Landys, the fact of the matter is that they lost last week.
They were beaten by the Sea Eagles.
Maybe not on the scoreboard, but that final pass for what should have been the game winning try went backward out of the hands and Manly should have gone on to win the game.
We have seen plenty of teams bolt out of the gates at the start of seasons past to only come unstuck towards the back end of the season.
The Dragons, Cowboys and even the Eels in recent seasons have fallen away after starting hotter than Emily Ratajkowski in the Blurred Lines film clip.
Manly are the team to beat in 2020.
But all the ingredients are there for Manly this year to make a serious run at the finals and win the whole thing.
They have the most underrated coach in the competition in Des Hasler, who has shown time and again his nous for building well-rounded squads with players who buy in to his team-first culture.
And he has shown on multiple occasions across two different clubs that he can inspire teams when it comes to the crunch during finals footy.
To make it easier for him, Des has at his disposal arguably the best player in the world right now in Tom Trbojevic.
Not only does he have elite athleticism with speed and agility to cause havoc on defensive lines, his ability to get up off the ground to make plays while fatigued sets him apart from the rest of the competition.
And he has proven himself as a big game player, with his impact at Origin level often overshadowed by James Tedesco’s series-winning efforts.
And the way in which he links with his brother Jake is always an attacking threat.
It’s beyond question that Jake is the best loose forward in game who has revolutionised the number 13 position, with other clubs trying to mould their locks in his ball-playing likeness. (Think Victor Radley)
All of this without even mentioning the Queensland and Australian halfback DCE who has accolades and experience under his belt and is clutch in the big moments, or one of the best props in the world Addin Fonua-Blake who is harder to tackle than a juiced up Rodney Howe in his prime.
These four superstars are surrounded by players who regularly play above expectations like Joel Thompson, Reuben Garrick, Brad Parker and Martin Tapau.
And we know what a fortress Brookvale Oval is for the Eagles when we return to home and away fixtures.
The only knocks on Manly this year are that Api Koroisau’s departure to Penrith leaves them somewhat vulnerable at hooker, but Danny Levi is doing a fair job there so far.
And their squad depth could be tested if injuries strike but the delaying of State of Origin until after the season is completed will be a bonus for Manly.
While the early money continues to come for Parramatta right now, the smart money is on Manly-Warringah at $9.
The Sea Eagles take on the damaged Broncos tomorrow night at Central Coast Stadium. Kick-off at 7:50pm.