Manly's unsung stars punching above weight

Manly's charge for the top four has been all about Tom Trbojevic but several unsung heroes are having the best years of their NRL careers around him.

TOM TRBOJEVIC of the Sea Eagles.
TOM TRBOJEVIC of the Sea Eagles. Picture: Jono Searle/Getty Images

They're the unsung Manly players punching well above their weight in the club's charge for their first NRL top-four spot in seven years.

In the case of front-rower Taniela Paseka, he is finally playing at his weight with his hulking 120kg frame.

While Tom Trbojevic has stolen almost every headline since his round-six return and the fairytale has surrounded the Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans reunion, Manly's resurgence has had so much more.

Take Jason Saab, who looked so out of sorts in the first four rounds he thought he wasn't even good enough for reserve grade.

Now, he's third in the NRL's try-scoring chart with 16 in his past 14 games.

Or opposite winger Reuben Garrick, who will again have the chance to go further clear at the top of the point-scoring chart if Queensland's lockdown doesn't stop Sunday's clash with Cronulla.

Then there is the turnaround in centre Morgan Harper.

He could barely get a game for a battling Canterbury side last year, but on moving to Manly his defence has secured a spot on the right edge while he has scored four tries in his past two games.

"It's got a lot to do with the coaches here," Harper said.

"With my career I didn't know if I would have one at some point last year.

"To not get an opportunity did hurt. But it just makes me a lot more hungry now.

"It makes me want to keep working hard so I don't end up back in that position where I didn't know what I was going to do."

The club's forward pack is the same story.

Lachlan Croker was a playmaker struggling for a spot in the halves before turning into one of the most improved hookers in the competition.

Haumole Olakau'atu has turned into a weapon, Josh Schuster has gone from a young half to a creative second-rower and Karl Lawton is thriving in his rebirth as a back-rower.

Then there's Toafofoa Sipley and Paseka, with the latter this week revealing how he learned to put his size to use after hearing Steve Roach in commentary lament the 23-year-old's inability to do so.

"When I watched the replays of my games he always says 'I can't wait until he understands how big he is'," Paseka said.

"Now I do finally understand.

"Before I was shy. I didn't know how to use my body.

"And after just watching year after year and game after game, I realised I could use it more.

"To not be afraid to throw my body around because obviously I am bigger than a lot of other players."