Manly Warringah to collect first wooden spoon

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Manly Warringah joined Australia’s premier rugby league competition in 1947 and never has it won a wooden spoon – that could be about to change after decades of success.

The National Rugby League team that everyone apart from fans on Sydney’s northern beaches loves to hate, Manly Warringah is bottom of the ladder after five rounds and deservedly so. Manly Warringah started its National Rugby League campaign with a 12-42 loss at Parramatta in which its forwards took a hammering from their Eels counterparts and things have not improved a great deal since its Pirtek Stadium pummelling.

Manly Warringah displayed some grit to beat Melbourne 24-22 in Round Two of the National Rugby League but the Sea Eagles were handing on for grim death at the end as their 18-point half-time lead got smaller and smaller in the second period. But Canterbury Bankstown (16-12), St George Illawarra (12-4) and Canberra (29-16) have defeated Manly Warringah in its three subsequent National Rugby League matches to put the Sea Eagles on the foot of the ladder on point difference.

How the mighty has fallen. Manly Warringah has participated in each of the last 10 National Rugby League Finals Series but it is long odds to make this term’s top eight based on what one has seen in the first five rounds. Manly Warringah has succeeded in recent seasons – it won the National Rugby League Grand Final in 2008 and 2011 – in spite of numerous off-the-field distractions, most notably boardroom power struggles and rumours of splits among the players. But even by Manly Warringah standards, the beginning of the 2015 National Rugby League has been crazy for the Sea Eagles.

First, Manly Warringah life member Anthony Watmough and his best friend, Glenn Stewart, left the Sea Eagles to link up with Parramatta and South Sydney respectively. Neither star has been replaced adequately, leaving Manly Warringah with a second-rate back row. Manly Warringah recruited Willie Mason and the worst of the four Burgess brothers, Luke, to plug its front row but neither signing looks like paying off. So, to put it bluntly, Manly Warringah’s list management has been poor and that is a worry in a salary-capped league.

Second, Manly Warringah halfback Daly Cherry-Evans made the morale-sapping call to inform his teammates of his decision to sign a 2016 contract with Gold Coast just minutes after the Sea Eagles had lost 12-42 at Parramatta – he told them in the Pirtek Stadium dressing rooms. That Cherry-Evans is not the most popular player in the Manly Warringah squad would be a gross understatement and Sea Eagles supporters really do not know what to make the young Queenslander.

Third, Manly Warringah five-eighth Kieran Foran, albeit with considerably more class than Cherry-Evans, has gone public with the news that he will join Parramatta for the 2016 National Rugby League season. Manly Warringah had hoped to build its team for the next five to 10 years around Foran and Cherry-Evans and now that is not going to happen.

Manly Warringah captain Jamie Lyon and his fellow centre, Steve Matai, are injury prone, Sea Eagles hooker Matt Ballin is a workhorse who does not offer a great deal on attack and the Brookvale Oval club’s pack is getting smashed week in, week out because it is undersized at National Rugby League level. Next up for Manly Warringah is a National Rugby League road game versus a Penrith side full of muscle.

PaddyPower is offering odds of +800  that Manly Warringah finishes the National Rugby League season with the fewest wins – bookmakers are reluctant to bet on the wooden spoon because they fear points deductions for misdemeanours could result in a high-ranking side being moved to the bottom of the ladder, something that has happened a few times lately.

One accepts that Gold Coast merits favouritism in National Rugby League fewest wins betting – the Titans are dreadful – but Manly Warringah should be the second favourite and not longer odds than Canberra and Cronulla. Manly Warringah’s next three National Rugby League matches are all away from Brookvale Oval, with the Sea Eagles visiting Penrith, Canterbury Bankstown and Melbourne before entertaining Newcastle. Manly Warringah is highly likely to be 1-7 and still marooned to the foot of the National Rugby League ladder by the time that Brookvale Oval opens up again.

Tips Summary

Manly Warringah to pick up the fewest wins
Odds:  +800
Where to Bet: PaddyPower

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