Such is the nature of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW that many teams will head into the season amidst a sea of change; that couldn’t be more significant, however, for new entity the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles.
When the Manly Sea Eagles announced in November they would join forces with historic club Blacktown Workers, they did so with the aim of drawing from the vast nursery of Western Sydney and forming a more defined pathway through the Sydney Shield, Ron Massey Cup and Intrust Super Premiership NSW ranks. Such a big move, however, meant the club had to move on a large portion of its existing local Manly players, instead opting for Blacktown juniors and signings from other clubs.
The Sea Eagles, who finished a disappointing 2016 season in 11th place, indicated early a mass player exodus was on the cards, which is exactly what was brought about by management. While those players have found new homes for 2017, it gives fans a chance to see a number of new faces along with established Intrust Super Premiership NSW players at the new joint venture. At the top of this is new coach Pat Weisner, who will work closely with Manly head coach Trent Barrett.
Fans should expect the unexpected from Blacktown Workers this season, with almost a completely clean slate for all involved. The season ahead, therefore, shapes as an intriguing one for the new club.
2016 IN 16 WORDS OR LESS (Manly Sea Eagles)
Solid in attack, the competition’s worst in defence – 2016 was a poor one at Brookvale.
THEIR BIG FIVE
With Weisner describing him as “the fittest player in our club,” former Panther Brendan Attwood is a suitable fit as the first Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles captain. A solid lock and second-rower who will look for a big year.
Tyler Cassel was named the Players’ Player in the Wests Tigers’ Intrust Super Premiership NSW side last year and also represented Scotland in the Four Nations – he is a major signing for the new franchise.
Having been a part of the dominant force that was Mounties last year, Pat Mataele brings with him the experience to give Blacktown Workers a fighting chance right from Round 1.
Having dominated in Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup, Charlie Faingaa is a significant signing for the Sea Eagles’ front row. Weisner tips the former Redcliffe Dolphin to be close to NRL selection at various points throughout the year.
Of the Sea Eagles’ dedicated 13-player squad, Tom Amone is the only player under 22 years of age and has big potential. The 20-year-old front-rower and lock has represented the Junior Kiwis and will look to further develop via the Blacktown team.
Weisner is a relative unknown for fans of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, but has previously proven his credentials in NSWRL’s other senior competitions. Having coached Blacktown Workers at the Ron Massey Cup level since 2015, he knows the club and is well equipped to oversee its progression into the highest tier of NSWRL football.
Prior to his involvement at HE Laybutt Fields, Weisner coached at Cabramatta as the Sydney Shield (2012-13) and Ron Massey Cup (2011) mentor, winning the latter competition in 2011. He has also led the national team of Niue since 2015, which compete in competitions such as the annual Cabramatta Nines.
The three-time Ireland international looks to be the right man for the job, but will have his work cut out for him with an all-new squad and players of different backgrounds. Expect to learn more about Weisner as the season progresses.
For essentially an entirely new team, it is almost not worth mentioning the individuals who have come and gone from the Sea Eagles’ system over the off season. Some key NRL-contracted recruits who will feature in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, however, will help the side immensely: Jarrad Kennedy (Mounties) was selected in the 2016 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Team of the Year, while Shaun Lane (Warriors) has demonstrated his potential in NRL games previously. Cameron Cullen (Gold Coast Titans) and Jackson Hastings (Sydney Roosters) will be the Round 1 halves combination, while Jonathan Wright (Warriors) will line up in the centres.
To say this is a hard task would be an understatement – it is near impossible to predict where the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles will finish in 2017. Bringing a new side together is never easy, of course, so it may be unrealistic to predict a top-four finish, but finals football is certainly on the cards for a side boasting a wealth of individual talent.