Manly say they’re still not the complete package as they sit within touching distance of locking up an NRL finals berth.
Everywhere you went at Manly training this week, all you could hear was players using the C-word.
Consistency that is.
At the NRL season halfway mark, Trent Barrett’s Sea Eagles are soaring and in touching distance of locking up a finals spot.
Written off by all and sundry before a ball was kicked this year, they go into round 14 two points outside the top four.
As has been a common theme throughout Manly’s 70-year history, they are revelling in proving their knockers wrong.
Those on the northern beaches have plenty of reason for optimism – they’re scoring the most tries per game (4.3), making the the fourth most linebreaks (5.2) and the least errors (9.4).
However there’s one chink in their armour which has left Barrett and his squad unsatisfied – their habit of drifting in and out of matches, particularly in the second half.
According to Fox Sports Stats, in their last three matches they have been outscored 42-12 in the second half. In that period, they didn’t score a point against Brisbane and Canberra in the last 40 minutes.
“We’re a bit patchy at times,” forward Martin Taupau said.
“What’s been a detriment to us is not being consistent throughout the whole 80 minutes.
“We’re good in the first 40 but it’s always that third (20-minute) period that gets us. We’re working towards that.”
The Sea Eagles were struck a blow during the week when in-form winger Jorge Taufua was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL.
However that pain is eased somewhat with star fullback Tom Trbojevic likely to make an early return from knee and ankle injuries against Newcastle on Friday night.
Barrett was on Thursday tight-lipped about whether his prized No.1 would take the field against the Knights at Lottoland.
It will also represent winger Akuila Uate’s first meeting against his old club after being forced out last year.
The former NSW and Australian representative has rediscovered his best form at Manly and Knights coach Nathan Brown said he was reaping the benefits of Manly’s stars creating space and time for him out wide.
“(Manly) paid a lot of money for Daly Cherry-Evans to backflip, a lot of money to get Martin Taupau and a lot of money to get Dylan Walker,” Brown said.
“By their standards they probably had a mixed year last year but this year their big money earners have played super footy.
“On the end of that Jorge Taufua and ‘Choccy’ (Uate) are getting plenty of good ball and they’re doing what they do best. In broken field they’re very good players.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* Manly have won six straight against Newcastle and will aim for seven in a row for the first time since 1997.
* Lottoland has traditionally been a fortress for Manly but this year they’ve won just two of six matches at Brookvale and under Barrett have won just five of 16 there.
* The Sea Eagles are second in points scored per game (23.4) and first in tries scored per game (4.3).