As a fifteen year old boy in 2005 all I wanted was for my team to play finals footy. I had been a Manly Sea Eagles/ Northern Eagles fan since the turn of the century and after five disappointing seasons I had come to the conclusion that life is not fair. Round 26, 2005 gave Manly a simple equation: win and make the post season, lose and you’re out.
A victory over Canberra secured our first finals appearance since 1998 and I was over the moon. Finally after all these years I will see my teams captain lining up with the captains of the other seven finalists on the back page of the paper. We scraped in at eighth, got flogged by Parramatta in the first week of the finals, which led to our elimination but I didn’t care, a boyhood dream had been witnessed.
Fast forward ten years and my team hasn’t missed the finals since. This ten year dynasty has included four grand finals and two premierships. No team has been as successful as Manly over this period and Manly fans have become used to success. Fans from other clubs can only dream of competing for the premiership every year. Like a fifteen year old me, many are probably hoping that their team can scrape into the finals at eighth.
For this reason I am not upset with DCE’s decision to leave or Kieran Foran’s if/when it finally becomes official. Instead I am appreciative of their contribution to the team’s success.
The last time I thought Manly’s dynasty might be over was in 2011. We had finished 2010 in eighth place (only qualifying for the finals due to Melbourne’s disqualification) and had a rookie untested halves pairing. That halves pairing was of course DCE and Foran and history tells us that we went on to win the premiership that year.
Like in 2011 I am not feeling too optimistic for season 2015. But hey who knows? The team may lift to send the halves out as winners. Although unlikely, it is now time to start looking to the future and redeveloping our entire squad. Forward leaders and of course halves will be of highest priority. Our strengths lie at fullback, hooker and outside backs with the likes of Brett Stewart, Matai, Lyon, Ballin and Hiku as well as young guns Tom Trbojevic and Clint Gutherson. And while we have some great young talent in the pack, we are missing rep quality forwards. The club has been linked to James Tamou, Darcy Lussick, Ryan James and Aidan Sezer, which would all be good signings that pointed towards the future.
It is clear that the club need to recruit heavily for season 2016. This will be the first big recruitment in nearly a decade and the club will hopefully secure its first marquee signing since Jamie Lyon in 2007. Despite this I think round one is way too early to throw in the towel for this year. I am still hopeful for finals footy and I’m sure the players are aiming for this too. Many players at the club would have never missed qualifying for the post season and would want to keep it that way.
What I don’t want to see is the fans turning on our departing halves, DCE in particular. If he wants to leave that is his choice. Every player is replaceable and no one is bigger than the team. Instead of hurling abuse from the hill at Brooky, hopefully Manly’s fans take the year to farewell two guys who have made a massive contribution in the recent success we have enjoyed.