With all due respect, a look at the backline of Manly's team sheet in the absence of stars Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic does not inspire confidence – however their coach Des Hasler has some NRL journeymen playing their best football and it all comes down to a very simple game plan.
Right now the Sea Eagles are an under-resourced team playing well above their weight. So what's the reason for it?
Watching them play, there is nothing complicated about their game plan. This is very much a Des Hasler team, from the way he played and what he tried to instil at the Bulldogs.
It's all about working really, really hard, being meticulous about your job, focusing on just your job and nothing outside of that and doing the little things right.
Brendan Elliot is not Tom Trbojevic and Kane Elgey is not DCE. Brad Parker doesn't play like Latrell Mitchell and Cade Cust isn't Luke Keary. But they are not trying to be. Everyone in that club right now is making the best of what they have and they are getting the results from it.
They all know what they have to do and what's expected from them. I'm sure Des has sat each of them down and gone over their strengths and weaknesses and given them a task on the field related to what they're good at.
They're under no pressure to do things they're not good at so when you have such a sure sense of what your job is on the field it's easy to know whether you're doing your job or not. They all look like they know what they're doing.
Is Des Hasler in line for coach of the year?
What stands out to me is they're all working really hard on their own games and everyone is doing their jobs in defence and showing plenty of desperation. You can tell they want to win and enthusiasm gets them over the line as much as anything else.
Particularly with younger guys, they have so much enthusiasm and energy so if you're specific about what you expect on-field they can go out and get it done but if you cloud their head with complicated game plans and you're not as specific all that energy gets wasted doing stuff that won't get them the best return.
Against the Sharks their two halves really delivered in a team when the main playmakers are out.
The things you really want from them are good fifth tackle kicks, not to miss in defence, be energetic and give the team a structure to work with.
They don't have to go to right to the line and put in deft plays through the line, that will come naturally if team sticks to the game plan and gets to the position you want to on the field. It's really just a matter of doing the little things right and that's what they did on the weekend – they moved the ball to where they needed to, got good kicks away, didn't miss important tackles and got the ball to the right players.
Match Highlights: Sharks v Sea Eagles
They still have some superstars in that forward pack and they are playing a very forward-oriented gamer plan. They still have a few players who can bust a game open and they are playing to their strengths.
Jake Trbojevic has a lot of skill, he hits like a truck in defence, runs hard and offloads and throws a nice late pass and he is drawing players in and putting opposition defences in two minds. Marty Taupau is a massive workhorse too, he's very hard to put down and throws a lot of offloads. Addin Fonua-Blake reminds me a bit of Andrew Fifita – he is the kind of guy that can turn a game on its head in an unconventional way.
So they're doing good things in the forwards and when those forwards stand up like they did on the weekend against Cronulla they also have a simple game plan in defence.
It's mostly an up-and-in defence rather than a sliding defence so you're always hitting with the inside shoulder and you don't have to worry about the players on your outside, so you pretty much just need to worry about what's in front of you and inside towards the ball.
It's easier to defend like that because you're not worrying about the blind spot over your shoulder, and when your defence is on usually the rest of your game is on as well.
Rookie half Cade Cust looks like a solid defender with some tenacity but even Elgey, who is not one I'd say is the best defender, has done his job. It just seems like they're not trying to overcomplicate things. At the moment for them it's about competing hard, doing your job and making the most of your chances in first grade while the other guys are out.