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Manly's roster and financial revamp to herald new era

Des Hasler has revived Manly on the paddock.

His new boss Stephen Humphreys plans to do likewise off it, managing a Melbourne-esque "Big Three"-centric salary cap and planning to revamp stagnant revenue streams to ease pressure on the club's owners, the Penn family.

The newly minted Sea Eagles CEO has returned to the NRL after a five-year stint with British Airways, a decidedly more glamourous role than heading up what recently has been one of the game's most volatile and cost-conscious clubs.

Humphreys has had a busy start to his tenure, dealing with the ramifications of Manase Fainu's serious criminal charges and the hooker being stood down by the NRL.

He has also been in discussions with the NRL around new ARL chairman Peter V'landys speaking out in support for a Lottoland upgrade, while the NSW and Federal governments are already fronting some $32 million for a new grandstand and adjoining centre of excellence.

Last week, local juniors Tom and Jake Trbojevic re-signed on lucrative six-year deals that will most likely make them one-club players.

With around $12 million spent on the superstar brothers and captain Daly Cherry-Evans also pulling in roughly $1 million a year, Humphreys is at ease with up to a third of Manly's salary cap being spent on just three marquee men.

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It's not dissimilar to Melbourne's successful building around champions Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk in recent years, with Hasler in turn emulating Craig Bellamy's knack of reviving careers through players like Moses Suli, Reuben Garrick, Curtis Sironen and Brendan Elliot in 2019.

"From a salary cap point of view we'll have a different look to some others, but we're really comfortable with it," Humphreys said.

"We're very comfortable with the decision we've made and we have a plan to manage that over the medium to long term."

Humphreys is well aware of Manly's constant churn through nine CEOs since emerging from the Northern Eagles saga in 2003, and is equally confident the infighting and instability can be confined to the past.

"It's a tough gig and it does burn through quite a few people," the former Wests Tigers boss said.

"But I did quite a bit of due diligence on the club before I came in. Having worked in the game before I'm conscious of those potential pitfalls.

"Some of the issues that have been present at Manly in the past, I don't see now,

"I do see a very strong, unified board and ownership group, Des being back in the picture just fits and works. And we've got a great playing roster.

"Nothing's perfect but it feels like it's got the ingredients and I do really feel we're on the upswing."

In the same vein as Manly's front office turnover, club owner Scott Penn seemingly dismisses talk of the Sea Eagles being sold off every six months.

Penn has publicly declared tipping in as much as $16 million over the past decade, and Humphreys concedes the club's revenue streams are due for a revamp to ease the financial burden on the Penn family.

"One of my objectives if you like is to drive enough revenue, enough income to be able to invest in the things we need to invest in," Humphreys said.

Manly coach Des Hasler.
Manly coach Des Hasler.

"There's been a sameness, if you look at our P&L [Profit and Loss margins] other than the NRL grant and what you pay your players changing over time, the rest of the lines haven't changed that much.

"That's not a criticism, it's a fact. It's a very competitive environment in Sydney for sponsors and fans so we need to challenge ourselves to think a bit differently.

"We need to work out a model that works for us. The owners will be there to support us no question, that support is unswerving. But we want to do over and above that."

A boost to Manly's bottom line could eventually be passed on to Hasler's football department. understands their 2018 football department expenditure amounted to under $6 million outside of player salaries, around half what the biggest spending clubs outlaid, with only the Titans spending less.

Hasler's predecessor Trent Barrett made plain the strain that those pressures caused in his ugly exit from the club.

In 2020 season the NRL's $5.93 million cap on football departments will come into effect, with clubs to pay a 37.5% tax should they spend over that figure on football staff, training camps and facilities.

While the NRL's incoming rules and Manly's shoestring budget mean Hasler is unlikely to ever command as much football department cash as he did at Canterbury, Humphreys remains keen to support one of the game's more creative thinkers.

In turn, Hasler will retain autonomy over his football department, within reason.

"Coaches I've worked with in the past, very successful coaches like Tim Sheens and Des is the same, they're always trying to push the envelope and find the incremental gain," Humphreys said.

We need to challenge ourselves to think a bit differently.

Stephen Humphreys

"Whether that be a new bit of kit or technology, a consultant to bring a different perspective into the business. That's normal.

"We just have to prioritise living within our means, that means saying no from time to time.

"We start the year with a budget and a plan, but things happen and change, you need to be adaptable.

"The relationship between CEO and head coach is really important. It's critical. You don't need to be best mates, but you do need to be on the same page and supporting each other. And I'm very confident that will be the case."

Acknowledgement of Country

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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