Talked about as spooners, the Manly Sea Eagles are closer to the NRL premiership conversation with a spot in the top four not out of the question.

The Manly Sea Eagles sent out a backline made up of Brendan Elliot, Abbas Miski, Moses Suli, Brad Parker, Reuben Garrick, Lachlan Croker and Kane Elgey in Round 8.

They won that game.

Running with what most considered a reserve grade backline for most of the season so far, the Sea Eagles have won nine of their 15 games to sit 6th on the NRL ladder heading into Round 16 where they enjoy a bye.

Des Hasler has done an incredible job of getting this team full of also-rans playing excellent footy and thriving on the one-percenters. The little things – kick-chase, line-speed, effort plays – is where Manly has thrived.

With Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic healthy, it’s time to start thinking about the Sea Eagles as a genuine Top 8 side.

Maybe even premiership contenders.

Turbo Tom

Tom Trbojevic had become the forgotten fullback before he returned from injury to score three tries for the Blues in the centres in Origin 2.

All the talk was about “the two best fullbacks in the game” throughout the buildup.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck says hello, but that’s a different discussion.

Nevertheless, the debate arose over Kalyn Ponga possibly taking James Tedesco’s Kangaroos jersey by the end of the year. Hold the phone, he’d have to take it off Trbojevic too, wouldn’t he?

The numbers Turbo Tom has put up in limited minutes are staggering. For every argument about sample size, it’s worth considering how long it takes players to regain match-fitness. He’s put up these numbers and is only just getting started.

The Sea Eagles have been able to make-do without Trbojevic up until now. He adds another dimension to them now, though. He can ball-play out the back, but there might not be a better support runner in the NRL than the 22-year-old.

Matty Johns called him a “bloodhound” with his ability to sniff out a try. This try out of nothing is a prime example:

His three-try haul while playing in the centres has put Trbojevic back in the conversation over the NRL’s top players. It won’t be long before the spike in form he provides the Sea Eagles will turn the discussion into how far this team can go in 2019.

NRL Odds: Manly Top Four

Despite being in the group of potential wooden spooners to start the season, the Sea Eagles are now specials to play finals football. At $1.25 to make the Top 8, the expectation is that Manly take this start and run with it into September.

With the Top 8 looking likely, the Sea Eagles will have set their sights higher.

Three spots in the top four have already been all but confirmed. The Storm ($1.01), Roosters ($1.12) and Rabbitohs ($1.20) are unlikely to be unseated at the top of the NRL ladder. That leaves one spot available, and it could well be the Sea Eagles who take it.

While Manly looks every bit like a Top 8 side, they’ve got a tough draw to end the year.

After defeating the Titans in Round 14, seven of their last nine games come against Top 8 sides.

Remaining Draw: Rnd 17 – @ Rabbitohs, Rnd 18 – Eels, Rnd 19 – @ Storm, Rnd 20 – Knights, Rnd 21 – @ Warriors, Rnd 22 – Tigers, Rnd 23 – @ Raiders, Rnd 24 – Storm, Rnd 25 – @ Eels.

Currently in 4th spot, Canberra are favoured to retain it. However, Manly can no longer be ignored. They’ve shaved their Top 4 odds from $6 prior to Rnd 8 into $3.75 leading into the bye.

From there, you can’t rule out the Sea Eagles taking out the Grand Final either. They’ve more than halved their quote in the NRL Premiership market too, from $34 into $15, in just a few weeks.