Bulldogs prepare for unknown at Brookvale
The Bulldogs will be the crash test dummies of the competition on Friday night as the first club to face a drastically overhauled Sea Eagles outfit when they travel to Brookvale Oval for an intriguing Round 1 clash.
The Sea Eagles have a new playmaking and hooking combination, an unrecognisable forward pack from last year and a completely new coaching staff, but Canterbury players say there are still a few givens whenever you take on the Sea Eagles on their home patch.
"You know they're going to turn up, they obviously have a new coach and a few new players but the mentality of Manly's never changed," Dogs prop Aiden Tolman said.
"You know when you play them you have to be on your game and it's going to be a good test for us Round 1, over there, away from home, the crowd's always against you and they've got a good side so it's going to be a tough game but we want to get the season off with a win.
"They've got a new forward pack but it's the same faces we've played in other teams. It won't make the job any easier."
Lock Greg Eastwood has played alongside some of Manly's new faces; like many of his teammates he once wore blue and white with enforcer Marty Taupau, while Eastwood has more recently played Test football for New Zealand with Taupau and another new Manly recruit, Lewis Brown.
"They've got a new side and a new coach so we don't know what to expect; we've just got to focus on our own game," Eastwood said.
"They've recruited real well this year. There was a lot of talk they needed to add size to their pack and they've done that. You know what you're going to get with [Taupau]. He's going to try and run over you every chance he gets.
"Nate Myles has been real consistent over a long period and Lewis Brown is going to do a job for them. We've got to limit their metres and help our side get on the front foot.
"It's always a hard game going to Brookvale, even when they've got a few injuries here and there, you know what they're going to do. They don't want to disappoint their fans, especially at their home ground they'll come out strong but I'm sure our boys will do the job."
Blues back-rower Josh Jackson suggested his old teammate Taupau would add plenty of energy and physicality to Manly's middle.
"They've got a fair few other new players there. I think they've done really well with the players they've brought in and a new coach as well so it's a little bit unknown exactly what they're going to throw up at us," Jackson said.
"They've done really well to get those players in, they're all quality players, they're all representative players."
He added it was hard for his side to know what to focus on with so many new players and a new coach.
"If we can just match their energy early and hang in there for 80 minutes we'll give ourselves every chance.
"The first couple of weeks is always a bit of a trial period to see how those things go and you adjust your game accordingly," Jackson said.
Jackson also backed his side's big pack to adapt to the reduced interchanges and shot clock as well as any side.
"I think we should be all right; we've got [props] Aiden Tolman and James Graham who could punch out 80 if they had to and probably do it quite easily, then myself and Tony Williams usually play longer minutes as well so I think we should be all right," he said.