Club: Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Record: 6-18 (-317)
Players Used in 2014: 47
Season Highlight: Back to back wins in round 8b and round nine against Newtown and the Wests Tigers.
Season Lowlight: Consistently inconsistent.
Summary: When the time comes to dissect the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles performance in the VB NSW Cup in 2014, it’s fair to assume the word ‘disappointing’ will come to mind.
Missing the finals for the third straight year and finishing second-last with only six wins for the season will be viewed as disappointing for Coach Luke Williamson and his men, but if the strength of your reserve grade side is judged by their contributions to the first grade team, then the Sea Eagles can hold their heads higher than first expected.
With experienced forwards Brent Kite, Joe Galuvao and George Rose leaving the club at the end of last year, and injuries to key players throughout the 2014 season, the Sea Eagles VB NSW Cup side was called upon to fill the void on far more occasions than they may have expected at the beginning of the season.
With James Hasson (17), Cheyse Blair (7), Jack Littlejohn (5), Tyson Andrews (4), Clinton Gutherson (3), Jayden Hodges (2), Michael Chee-Kam (1) and Tony Satini (1) all called up to play first grade at various stages throughout the year, Luke Williamson was often denied the use of some of his most influential players.
Whilst this can be viewed as a contributing factor to the Sea Eagles finish on the ladder, it is also a problem that most clubs face throughout the season and Manly will be disappointed they didn’t handle the loss of their players as well as they could have.
Five losses to start the season put Manly on the back foot over the opening month of the competition with close two and one point losses to Wentworthville and Wests Tigers tempered by heavy losses to Canterbury (32-10), Mounties (50-10) and Cronulla (38-10).
The Sea Eagles then played their best football of the season over an eight week period where they won four of their next eight matches, with close losses to New Zealand (22-18), Wyong (36-30) and Mounties (32-30), to give themselves a shot at redemption after their poor start to the year.
A second-half comeback wasn’t to be for Manly however, with the Sea Eagles only registering two wins from their remaining eleven games to finish the season in 12th position ahead of only the North Sydney Bears.
Despite the disappointment on a team level, there were many impressive individual efforts from the men in Maroon and White in 2014, but none more so than Jayden Hodges and Clinton Gutherson.
With an injured Matt Ballin unable to take part in the Sea Eagles NRL finals matches, Hodges showed he has a big future at the club with wholehearted efforts against eventual Grand Finalists South Sydney and Canterbury. Hodges was rewarded for his consistent performances throughout the season by claiming the Sea Eagles VB NSW Cup Player of the Year and Players Player awards.
Clinton Gutherson continued his transition into future Sea Eagles star with several eye catching performances across both grades. Gutherson was named as the NSW U20s fullback for the second year in a row, was named as 18th man in the VB NSW Cup Team of the Year and added three matches to his NRL games tally.
A few other younger players to keep an eye on in 2015 will be Jamil Hopoate, Jayden Horo, Zac Nicholls and Jake Trbojevic, who all showed enough in 2014 to suggest that there are abetter things to come just around the corner.
Conclusion: Another season in the VB NSW Cup that promised so much but for the most part delivered little.