CAN Trent Barrett coach now?
At the start of the season hardly anyone gave Barrett a hope of lasting the year.
Then Manly lost their opening two games and the knives were out.
At about that time a backroom brawl erupted between football head Bob Fulton and new chief executive Tim Cleary.
The joint was in turmoil.
Bozo knew nothing about recruiting, Barrett knew even less about coaching.
Fast forward seven weeks and look at them now.
Sitting in the top eight on 10 competition points going into the rep weekend and among their scalps this season include the Cowboys, Bulldogs, Roosters, Raiders and now the Rabbitohs.
Last week they completed 19 of 19 first half sets against the Raiders that showed they can play as tough and controlled as you need to win the big matches.
On Friday night it wasn’t so much about beating Souths as it was an absolute statement about their own intentions.
Not where they are now, but where they are heading.
It was 30-2 at halftime, it finished 46-8.
While Souths opened the scoring with a penalty goal to Adam Reynolds, it was a Daly Cherry-Evans 40/20 kick in the fifth minute that changed everything.
“That was a massive play because we were on the back foot for that opening stanza,” Barrett said.
“And for Chez to do that, it is not the first time he has done it.
“But again, on the back of hard work you get rewarded for those things.”
And boy did Manly get their rewards.
From there, Blake Green put Brenton Lawrence over for the first try and the floodgates opened.
By halftime they’d raced in six tries.
By fulltime it was up to nine to Souths’ one, including four to some bloke named Akuila Uate.
Barrett was asked why he even bothered signing Uate from Newcastle. What he said told us as much about the coach as it did the player.
“Because I knew he could play like he is playing,” Barrett said.
“You don’t play for Australia and play for NSW and lose all your ability.
“The only thing you lose is motivation and confidence.
“And he has got that back and I am really happy for him.
“I have had a bit to do with Choc coaching him in Country sides and Origin sides as an assistant and I knew what he could bring to the group.
“He just needed an arm around him I guess.”
As a player, Barrett’s great strength was that he played hard and he believed, which is now coming through in his coaching.
Barrett struggled not to make mention of pretty much every player at the post match media conference.
From Cherry-Evans and Green to the Trbojevic brothers, Tom and Jake, who combined for a brilliant try just before the break where Tom threw a miracle ball inches from the deck that had his big brother cheering.
If both these boys don’t make the NSW team this year then Laurie Daley will have one hell of a side.
And while Uate was wonderful, all of his tries came off the work of Dylan Walker.
Against his old club, Walker was phenomenal. Fast, strong, so skilful. Last year Walker made Origin and he wasn’t anywhere near this form. Now they tell us he’s no chance for NSW. Go figure.
Up front Marty Taupau, Lawrence and Nate Myles were all huge.
They all were, across the park.
As Barrett said, that’s the thing about this Manly side.
They might not have the out-and-out stars of previous years, but they sure play for each other.
“They are working really hard for each other,” Barrett said.
“We’ve just got to keep going. We can still get a lot better I think. But we are starting to get a little bit of belief there.”