Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Coach Trent Barrett has plenty of strong arsenal on display in the annual Community Cup at Gosford tonight.
The final hit out of the pre-season sees Barrett’s men take on the much fancied premiership heavyweights Sydney Roosters at Central Coast Stadium in a match that will be a perfect warm up for both teams ahead of the Telstra Premiership season starting on March 8.
The trial marks the first appearance this season for Tom Trbojevic, Akuila Uate, Jorge Taufua, Lachlan Croker, Daly Cherry-Evans, Api Koroisau, Martin Taupau, Curtis Sironen, Joel Thompson and Jake Trbojevic after being rested in the trial loss to Cronulla last Saturday night.
Prop Darcy Lussick and centre Dylan Walker are missing through injury. Both will miss the first few weeks of the season.
The biggest speculation throughout summer has been over who will partner captain and half-back Daly Cherry-Evans (pictured) in the five-eighth position.
Barrett has given new signing in former Australian Schoolboy Lachlan Croker the first opportunity alongside Cherry-Evans after impressive performances during the pre-season.
The experience of Cherry-Evans, the Sea Eagles’ Player of the Year in 2017, will be a huge boost for Croker, who has overcome injuries and time in the Intrust Super Premiership to get another crack at first grade. He made his only NRL appearance for the Canberra Raiders in 2016.
Croker and Cherry-Evans will also work on developing their spine combinations with full-back Tom Trbojevic and hooker Api Koroisau.
Cherry-Evans will mark up against former Melbourne Storm and Kangaroos half-back Cooper Cronk in his first appearance for the Roosters. Their battle promises to be another elite contest between two outstanding number sevens.
The versatile Matthew Wright, who last week played full-back in the trial against Cronulla, will play centre in the absence of injured Dally M Centre of the Year, Dylan Walker.
A solid goal-kicker as well, Wright will be out to secure the number three jersey as he tries to fight off the likes of Brad Parker, who will line up at centre in the Intrust trial.
Another battle will be between the full-backs in Tom Trbojevic and James Tedesco, who will be playing his first game for his new club. Tedesco is the incumbent NSW number one while Trbojevic made his Test debut for Australia at the World Cup.
With the late finish of the World Cup last season, it meant the likes of Tom Trbojevic, Akuila Uate, Martin Taupau, Api Koroisau and Addin Fonua-Blake didn’t begin their pre-season training until late January, as did lock Jake Trbojevic who has overcome a pec injury to play in the trial and be ready for round one.
Fonua-Blake is the only one of the World Cup players who played in the trial against Cronulla.
Manly fans will also be looking forward to watching Thompson play in the maroon and white colours – the team he supported as a child.
With 174 NRL games to his belt, Thompson’s strong edge running will be a welcome sight for supporters throughout the season.
Experienced winger Jorge Taufua makes a welcome return to the team in his first game since suffering a season ending knee injury in round 13 last year.
Last year’s Community Cup saw the Sea Eagles win 20-18 in the dying minutes of the game through a try to Walker in a match played in heavy rain at times.
Central Coast Stadium
Saturday, February 24, 6.30pm
Tickets: Reserved $15, General Admission $12.
There is no live video stream of this match. Supporters can follow Manly’s Twitter account for all the live scores and news.
Sea Eagles team
1 Tom Trbojevic, 2 Akuila Uate, 3 Matthew Wright, 4 Brian Kelly, 5 Jorge Taufua, 6 Lachlan Croker,
7 Daly Cherry-Evans (c), 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Api Koroisau, 10 Martin Taupau, 11 Curtis Sironen,
12 Joel Thompson, 13 Jake Trbojevic, 14 Shaun Lane, 15 Jack Gosiewski, 16 Frank Winterstein,
17 Kelepi Tanginoa, 19 Manase Fainu