Front Row packs a punch

The 2015 preseason has been a busy one for the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles with players and coaching staff all on the move.

What has been mostly documented since the end of 2014 is the restructuring of the forward pack, most notably, the departure of veterans Jason King, Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart. 

Concerns regarding the wealth of experience and fight having left Manly ‘s pack have been feared.  However, statistics show that the Manly forwards can hold strong, with new recruits and existing players set to shine in a restructured squad.

The preseason welcomed three new recruits up-front. Veteran prop Willie Mason from Newcastle, Englishman Luke Burgess from South Sydney, and Siosaia Vave from the Cronulla Sharks. 

In Willie Mason, the Sea Eagles get a player with over 300 games of experience and leadership.  The charismatic forward is a former Clive Churchill medalist, NSW representative, Australian and Tongan international player.  Last year with the Knights Mason made 384 tackles, making 176 hit ups totaling 1876 running metres.  If there was any doubt over his eagerness to prove doubters wrong, his mic’d up debut for Fox Sports against the Dragons last year was nothing short of enthralling.

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Next up, Luke Burgess.  The oldest the Burgess quartet, Luke gained most of his experience playing for Leeds Rhinos in English Super League.  With the Rhinos, Luke won a Super League Premiership before joining South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2011 to join his brother Sam. Manly fans may have been disappointed to see some experienced hard working forwards leave the Club but they have been replaced by some players with a bigger frame.  Luke Burgess comes in a 194cm and weighs 113kg whilst offering a hardness to his game. The eldest of the Burgess clan, Luke made 347 tackles, 1193 running metres and 112 hit ups all in 15 games last season.

Siosaia Vave is also no small unit.  The ex-Sharks front rower is 188 cm tall, and weighs a hulking 120kg.  As well as playing for Cronulla, he has also spent two years with the Storm’s first team squad where the Melbournians structure of play is of a similar style to the Sea Eagles and should see him ease into Manly’s pack.

Along with these three recruits the Sea Eagles also have some genuine gun forwards at their disposal.

Brenton Lawrence has been the Clubs most consistent front rower over the last two seasons and has being knocking on the door for an Origin call up.  With an aging Maroon forward pack and a recent selection in the PM’s XIII over in PNG, the forward could easily break into the side on the back of some more quality performances. At the age of 30, he has a plenty of experience making 657 tackles, 2089 running metres and 132 hit ups in the 2014 season.

Josh Starling had a breakout 2014. At just 24 he was the Club’s most active front-rower, appearing on 26 occasions, making more than 500 tackles, 200 hit ups and over 2000m.  His work rate matches his nickname – ‘Diesel’. 

Joining him are the likes of Dunamis Lui, Jesse Sene Lefao, James Hasson and Tyson Andrews – all with representative honours to their names so early in their fledgling careers, that all worries regarding the sides front-row depth must surely be put to bed.

Yet, the front-row conundrum for 2015 still remains.

Different?  Yes.

Worrisome? Not really, as this underestimated band of front-rowers still packs a punch.