Manly have been transformed from the NRL’s whipping boys to one of the comp’s best performing sides in just four weeks, with Tom Trbojevic proving the catalyst.
After a seven-game drought in the middle of the season, four wins in a row have the Sea Eagles just one win outside the eight.
While a tough run home awaits, starting with Parramatta on Friday, with Canterbury, Melbourne, Canberra and Penrith to follow they have emerged as dark horses for the finals.
Statistics provided by Fox Sports Stats show the Sea Eagles have turned their season on its head over the last month, going from pop guns to big guns.
For most of the year Trent Barrett’s sides have simply struggled for points – they have ranked 11th for points scored (19.7 per game), 11th for line breaks (19.7), 11th for points conceded (21.8) and 14th for tackle busts (21.4).
However they have addressed their deficiencies and in the last four weeks they been first for run metres (1633m), conceded the least metres (1302m), scored the fourth most points (23.7), made the sixth most line breaks (5) and conceded the fifth least points (14).
“The problems we had were related to who we could get on the park and injuries,” Barrett said.
“Having some stability throughout the team, particularly in the halves, hooker and fullback has certainly helped us.
“And that’s shown. But it counts for nothing now, these guys are going to come out hard tomorrow night and we’ve got a hell of a lot to play for. We’ve got to get it on.”
The Sea Eagles’ emergence from their slumber has coincided with Trbojevic being shifted to fullback to fill in for the injured Brett Stewart.
Over the last four weeks, Trbojevic has established himself as one of the NRL’s best attackers with five try assists, four line breaks and run for an average 164m. Compare this to Stewart who notched one try, two try assists and one line break in his 11 appearances.
“They had a run of losses there for a while and to their credit their effort was always there,” Parramatta coach Brad Arthur said.
“The way you fight your way out of bad form is just sticking to what you set out to do and keep fronting up. With their effort they pushed through the other side of it.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Eels have a poor record at Parramatta this season, winning just three of seven matches.
* The Sea Eagles have not won five straight since winning six in a row in 2013.
* Manly are making the second least amount of errors (9.5 per game), second least errors in their own half (2.2) and have the fourth best completion rate in the NRL (78.1 per cent).
Source: Fox Sports Stats