Monday 18 December 2017 / 04:50 AM

DUO’S RETIREMENT MARKS END OF AN ERA AT MANLY

Attention surrounding Manly’s bid to get injury-plagued veterans Brett Stewart and Steve Matai medical retirement clearances has understandably focused on the impact the NRL’s decision will have on the club’s salary cap situation.

But the long-awaited confirmation that the decorated duo will not pull on the maroon and white jumper again also signals the Sea Eagles’ rapid regeneration – and the disintegration of their 2011 grand final-winning squad – is complete.

It began with the controversial departure of respected back-row pair Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart at the end of 2014, while a massive cleanout a year later saw fellow dual grand final winner Matt Ballin follow dumped coach Geoff Toovey, who was Des Hasler’s assistant in 2011, and Parramatta signing Kieran Foran out the door.

But this past season has truly gutted the remnants of that crack 2011 combination, with Brett Stewart and Steve Matai set to join Jamie Lyon in retirement, and long-serving utility Jamie Buhrer linking with Newcastle in the summer.

Recently-appointed captain Daly Cherry-Evans – the 2011 Dally M Rookie of the Year – is the only remaining player or coach from the side that beat the Warriors 24-10 in the NRL decider six years ago.

MANLY SEA EAGLES 2011 GRAND FINAL SQUAD

1. Brett Stewart – Applied for medical retirement early-2017
2. Michael Robertson – Joined Super League club London end of 2011, now retired
3. Jamie Lyon (c) – Retired end of 2016
4. Steve Matai – Applied for medical retirement early-2017
5. William Hopoate – Embarked on two-year Mormon mission end of 2011, now at Canterbury via Parramatta
6. Kieran Foran – Joined Parramatta end of 2015, now at Warriors
7. Daly Cherry-Evans – Still at Manly
8. Joe Galuvao – Retired end of 2013
9. Matt Ballin – Joined Wests Tigers end of 2015 after being released by Manly
10. Brent Kite – Joined Penrith end of 2013, now retired
11. Anthony Watmough – Joined Parramatta end of 2014, now retired
12. Tony Williams – Joined Canterbury end of 2012, now at Cronulla
13. Glenn Stewart – Joined South Sydney end of 2014, now at Super League club Catalans

14. Shane Rodney – Joined Super League club London end of 2011, now retired
15. Jamie Buhrer – Joined Newcastle end of 2016
16. Vic Mauro – Joined Super League club Salford City end of 2013, now retired
17. George Rose – Joined Melbourne end of 2013, now retired after stint at St George Illawarra

Coach: Des Hasler – Joined Canterbury end of 2011
Assistant coach: Geoff Toovey – sacked end of 2015, now at English club Bradford

Darcy Lussick, who emerged as a promising rookie prop in 2011 before spending three seasons at Parramatta (2013-15) and eventually returning to Brookvale last year, is the only other Sea Eagle first-grader from that campaign who is still at the club.

Incredibly, Jorge Taufua (2012), Brenton Lawrence and Jake Trbojevic (both 2013) are the only other current Manly players who made their first top-grade appearance for the club prior to 2015.

To put the exodus/cleanout in perspective, six years after the Sea Eagles’ 1987 and 1996 premiership successes, there were still four players from those squads at the club – and that’s in spite of the Northern Eagles upheaval after the latter – while seven players remained six years after the 2008 grand final victory.

The sweeping changes on the northern beaches over the past 18 months emphasise how difficult a task rookie coach Trent Barrett had in front of him last year, and also suggests it may be some time before we see the Sea Eagles resurface as the NRL powerhouse that made 10 straight finals series and four grand finals under Hasler and Toovey from 2005-14.

Meanwhile, Manly is appealing the NRL’s rejection of the application for Stewart to receive a medical retirement clearance, and the NRL has requested more information from the club in regards to Matai.

[YouTube – NRL]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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