Article from Su-Herald today. A lot of past rehashing but a good read. Bolding is mine and makes a 8| based on one poster's recent comments! :lol: ---- THE BRICK wall otherwise known as the Manly defensive line has received the ultimate accolade from Bulldogs captain Andrew Ryan, who has admitted the Sea Eagles have overtaken his rabid Dogs as the benchmark for punishing defence. Manly's surge to the top of the premiership ladder - even more remarkable given the absence of halfback Matt Orford, Test veteran Steve Menzies and Kiwi international Steve Matai - has been forged from the concession of only seven tries in five games. But while statistics are great, they sometimes lie and the verbal endorsement from the skipper of the NRL's previously most-feared pack is proof of their elevation to genuine premiership contenders. " They've become the best defensive team in the comp," said Ryan, who went against coach Steve Folkes's orders by taking two points from a penalty rather than attempting to score a try during Manly's 16-14 win over the Bulldogs last weekend. Folkes said: "We were trying to go around them but with the defensive pattern Manly use, if you go sideways you just get run over the sideline, basically. You need to be a lot straighter. Throwing long passes against them is a waste of time." Grand finals are won by the best pack of forwards and the most impenetrable defence across the park. In the last fortnight, the Sea Eagles have muscled up against the two most physical sides in the premiership in the Warriors and Bulldogs and come out on top. Although low-key Manly coach Des Hasler protests that "you don't win grand finals at Easter" those back-to-back triumphs speak volumes for the toughness and intimidatory powers of the largely unheralded Sea Eagles six. "We've made a good start, but that's it," Orford said. "We're not getting carried away." Last week's matchwinner Michael Monaghan said: "We're five rounds in and I've never seen a team win a comp in round five. "There's a long way to go. We're not deliberately playing it down, we're just being realistic." Manly players and officials are under no obligation to say anything they don't want to say. Hasler is never rude, far from it. He can be extremely polite. At the media day last year he poured cups of tea and asked who wanted sugar and cake. He's quietly spoken but tough on the inside. He denied his tight-lipped ways were to avoid providing ammunition to the opposition, saying: "It might be the interpretation but we've been quite open about everything we're doing. We're just plodding along and doing our best, mate. "We're just doing our best." The one thing Hasler can boast about is the Sea Eagles' commitment and guts. They worked hard during the off-season. Every club did, but few produced the results of the Sea Eagles. Their backs became quicker, their forwards stronger. Overall fitness levels have lifted. Take George Rose, for example. On day one of the pre-season, he lumbered into the Sydney Academy of Sport at Narrabeen tipping the scales at a whopping 126 kilograms. Two months later he was 114kg. He's still a big lad, but that's 40 millimetres of fat he's shed, according to the front-rower's most feared enemy - the skin-fold calipers. To place it in context, a person of above-average fitness has a skin-fold reading of 94. Monaghan's is 82.5, Menzies' comes in at 86. Boom hooker Matt Ballin's about 58 . Somebody give him a burger. "He's like a walking anatomy book," Manly strength and conditioning coach Don Singe said. "That's hardly any fat at all." They also have arguably the quickest back line in the business. Brett Stewart, Jamie Lyon, Chris Hicks, Steve Bell, Michael Robertson - the slowest of that lot can easily cover 60 metres in less than seven seconds. The quickest - tryscoring whiz Stuart - needs a little more than six seconds, just a tick away from representing Australia over 100m at the Olympics. The Eagles are strong, too. Orford is, pound for pound, the strongest man in the NRL. He can bench press 160kg - twice his body weight. His teammates aren't far behind. Anthony Watmough can squeeze out a 155kg repetition and Travis Burns, all 80kg of him, benches 150kg. Glenn Stewart put on 4kg of muscle while dropping his body fat and fellow beard-grower Hicks holds a host of records in and out of the club's gym. He can bench a club record 110kg 18 times and run 40m in less than five seconds. "Chris Hicks is bloody amazing, he pulls stuff out of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã‚Â¦ I don't know where," Singe said. On average, each player has put on 2.5kg of muscle. Pretty much everyone recorded a fitness or strength-related personal best during the off-season. And then there's Sione "Mr Tonga" Finefeuiaki, a behemoth who can bench 170kg but still can't get a start in first grade. It all adds up to possession of the competition lead and the respect of Ryan. After the victory against the Dogs, Hasler palmed off questions with a question of his own. "Are you trying to say we're premiership contenders?" The short answer is, yes.