Performance In Manly’s “Top Three” Worst, Says Toovey

By STEVE MASCORD

MANLY’s premiership defence came to a crushing end last night but captain Jamie Lyon declared the season a success after coach Des Hasler’s dramatic exit last summer.

Lyon described the 40-12 preliminary final defeat to Melbourne at AAMI Park one of the Sea Eagles’ worst performances in years, telling a post-match media conference: “Some of the people in this room could have caught the balls we dropped”.

But after the peninsula club lost their coach shortly after the 2011 grand final, Lyon – who returned from a calf injury with two dynamic finals series performances – said the season should be regarded as a success.

“I guess it’s been pretty successful. I suppose with what we’ve been through, Geoff (Toovey) has done a great job and the boys have really enjoyed the season,” the former Australia centre said.

“It’s just so disappointing to finish the season like that.”

Toovey had grounds for complaint about one try but could only throw his hands up late last night at the decisive nature of the result.

“I don’t mind losing … we had a fantastic season but to finish on that note – I’m really gutted,” he told reporters.

“We were blown off the park.

“It’s been a good effort. To finish the competition in fourth place is a good achievement.

“It’s very disappointing for me as a coach and the players are shattered too. It’s been stressful. I’m very fortunate to be part of a team that has so many great personalities in it.

“It’s a great senior playing group that has really helped me.

“I know they’re better than that. I know what this team’s capable of.”

Toovey admitted players went into the game injured and in Matt Ballin (calf) plus Steve Matai (leg), they picked up more casualties,

“That’s not an excuse,” he said. “We did have some injuiries during the game and we were down on troops.”

Of the 9th minute Billy Slater try, which was allowed despite an apparent knock-on, he said: “Does it matter? Video said it was lost. We had a bit of luck last week. He shouldn’t have been down there.”

Asked at fulltime about the performance, Sea Eagles captain Jamie Lyon said: “It was a terrible one.

“It was our worst for years. We dropped too much ball. It was like we couldn’t catch a ball.

“We were still pretty confident at halftime. We played some terrible footy and to be just a try down, we felt we were still in the hunt. We didn’t have the best start to the second half.”

For a while, it looked like the Sea Eagles’ title defence would end with barely a wimper.

By the ninth minute, the Storm had scored three tries but lead only 12-0, thanks to some uncharacteristically inaccurate kicking from Cameron Smith.

“Switch on!” was the call heard behind the Manly line after Slater’s contentious try.

But as the animated Toovey watched from the coaches’ box, banging regularly on the glass, the Sea Eagles steadied themselves.

Jamie Lyon chased Kieran Foran’s bomb and speculatularly claimed it to touch down three minutes short of the break and give travelling fans a reason to come back after halftime.

But when play resumed, it was the Storm side of the scoreboard that ticked over again.

The Herculean Lyon interupted the flood of purple points with a long-range try off a Storm mistake but it was all Melbourne – in the end the title defence wasn’t surrendered but it petered out.

The margin failed to match the Storm’s best over the Sea Eagles by just two points.

Captain Smith said of the Sea Eagles: “We knew Manly like to get up in your face. We handled that. That’s a strength of this side – teams try to bash us.”

Some feared the Sea Eagles would fall back to the field after coach Des Hasler’s early departure and the season began with rumours of a player exodus at the end of 2012.

But star players such as fullback Brett Stewart and five-eighth Foran opted to stay and under first-year mentor Toovey, the Sea Eagles retained their steely visage of previous seasons and finished the season in fourth with 16 wins and eight losses.

Players leaving the Sea Eagles include Tony Williams – who had an unhappy first half – to Canterbury and Darcy Lussick to Parramatta.

Filed for: THE AUSTRALIAN

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