Trent Barrett will give Daly Cherry-Evans free reign as Manly’s attacking focal point next season.
But the new Sea Eagles coach is adamant the NRL club must improve its defence if it’s to become a premiership force again.
Kieran Foran’s move to Parramatta means that halves partner Cherry-Evans is now the main man at Brookvale, after the club threw everything into securing him on a “lifetime” contract after he’d agreed to join Gold Coast on a $4.4 million four-year deal.
As he seeks to return Manly to the finals, after missing the playoffs for the first time in 11 season this year, Barrett knows much depends on DCE.
“He will be the focal point for us and we are very lucky to have a dominant halfback who can control the game,” Barrett told AAP.
“And I think it is a real opportunity for Daly to take real ownership of the side.
“In saying that we have (Brett) Stewart and (Feleti) Mateo and (Jamie) Lyon and all these skilful players who are going to complement Daly, because he can’t do it all on his own and I wouldn’t expect him to.
“He will have some very good players around him.”
During his time as a playmaker with St George Illawarra, 37-year-old Barrett played in some of the most attacking sides in NRL history.
But the former Italy and NSW Country Origin coach and ex-Penrith assistant said his team’s playing style in his NRL head coaching debut role won’t necessarily mirror that.
“You have to play to the strengths of our team, the style you play is dictated by the strength of your roster,” he said.
“We have some very good attacking players, but all the top four sides and every side that has won the comp in the last 10 years has been the best defensive side so we will have a big focus on that.
“I know we can attack. I am lucky to have so many good players in the side.Blokes of different age and different experience as well. But it is our defence that I want to get right.”
Manly began pre-season training on Monday under Barrett and his assistant coaches John Cartwright and Anthony Siebold, after the sacking of club legend Geoff Toovey at the end of last season.
“This is something that I have always wanted to do and something that I feel that I can do,” said Barrett of becoming a head coach.
“There is pressure everywhere but the moment I start thinking about that I will lose focus.”
Barrett indicated Jamie Lyon would continue as skipper of the Sea Eagles.