Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles have had an exceptional season in 2021, with the club preparing for their first Preliminary Final in eight years against the South Sydney Rabbitohs next Friday night.
However, former NRL premiership winner and Triple M pundit Ryan Girdler has branded the Sea Eagles “flat-track bullies” and has expressed serious doubts over their ability to go all the way and win the competition.
“They had some really good performances last night from some individuals but I’m not buying it… they’re flat-track bullies,” said Girdler on Triple M.
“There was a relevant question there. They haven’t beat anyone in that top echelon of teams.”
“They’ve played Penrith a couple of times and got beaten convincingly, they’ve beaten Melbourne a couple of times and been beaten convincingly,” he said.
“If you look at their run in the last six weeks it was all against bottom sides and they built a little bit of momentum and confidence. They came up against Melbourne in a semi-final and got absolutely torn apart.
“They played South Sydney earlier in the year and got nowhere near them. It is not so much the score lines but the performances were poor by key players.
“Now they came up against a side last night that had been decimated and everyone knew what was going to happen. They’re a good side when they don’t have a lot of resistance.
“I can’t believe Manly are one game away from the grand final. Their best and worst is so far apart.”
Girdler is right in the sense that the Sea Eagles have been beaten by the Storm, Panthers and Rabbitohs this season, however; their loss against South Sydney came back in round two, where they remained competitive until a couple of late tries secured victory for the Rabbitohs in a game that Tom Trbojevic did not feature in.
Two weeks later they were outclassed and humbled by the Panthers, again without Trbojevic.
One month later Manly would meet Penrith again, this time with Tom Trbojevic, and the scoreline was relatively close, although the Panthers looked by far the superior side throughout.
In round 21, the Sea Eagles remained competitive against the Melbourne Storm and began to expose some of the Storm’s weaknesses, but in the first week of the finals, Manly was systematically dismantled by the Storm, as Tom Trbojevic was taken out of the equation.
Manly aren’t necessarily flat-track bullies as they have it in them to go toe to toe with the top sides, but it’s a hard feat for them to achieve, made harder by the fact that so much rides on the form of just one man, who we now know can be stopped.