The prized signature of Kieran Foran appears all that is left for Manly this NRL season as a decade of success concludes at Brookvale.
The Sea Eagles have qualified for the past 10 finals series in an incredible record that includes four grand-final appearances and two premierships.
But, this season – amid a high injury toll, constant speculation over the futures of Foran and halves partner Daly Cherry-Evans and indifferent form – Manly could secure their first wooden spoon since their inaugural season in 1947.
After their 20-8 loss to South Sydney on Friday night, the Sea Eagles remain anchored to the bottom of the NRL ladder. They sit behind the Wests Tigers, Parramatta and Newcastle on percentages but those clubs have enjoyed one more win, with Manly’s extra two competition points coming from their second bye.
Manly need to win at least eight of their last 10 games to qualify for the top eight – that would get them to 28 points which has been the cut-off for the past two seasons. However, Brisbane only secured eighth spot on percentages last year before being swept aside by North Queensland in the first week of the finals.
It is possible for Manly to make the finals given they only play current top-eight teams four times over that period. But they also come up against the Cowboys, Broncos, the Rabbitohs again and Sydney Roosters.
They host Parramatta in round 24 in a match likely to have a crucial bearing on who finishes with the dreaded wooden spoon.
Sea Eagles fans could be forgiven for already looking ahead to 2016, after the club added Nate Myles, Darcy Lussick and Lewis Brown alongside DCE to their roster for next season.
But before then, securing Foran will be the focus for Manly, with the Kiwi international’s contract imbroglio with Parramatta not expected to be settled until at least late next week.
Manly remain quietly confident their rearguard action to secure their premiership-winning pivot will succeed in the same way the Sea Eagles prized Cherry-Evans back from the clutches of Gold Coast.
Foran offered a polite “no comment” when approached after the loss to Souths, but still stopped to sign several autographs for supporters waiting outside the ANZ Stadium changerooms.
Coach Geoff Toovey has spoken with Foran to try to keep him on the northern beaches for 2016 and beyond, but has no further news on the club’s retention moves.
“There’s no update there at the moment,” Toovey said.