Manly's telling move as details of smaller NRL playing field in Las Vegas emerge

The Sea Eagles have cut the size of their training ground to mimic the shorter field at Las Vegas.

Daly Cherry-Evans in action for the Manly Sea Eagles.
The Manly Sea Eagles will cut the size of their training ground to mimic the skinnier, shorter Allegiant Stadium. Image: Getty

Manly have stepped up their Las Vegas preparations by cutting the size of their training ground to mimic the shorter and skinnier Allegiant Stadium. The NRL will take the game to the US when it kicks off in Las Vegas next month, with the historic double-header beginning on March 2.

The first match of the NRL season will be played on the league's smallest playing field, with the sideline-to-sideline distance cut down from 68m to 63m. But it isn't only the width that has been narrowed.

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The field will be just 94.5m in length, down from the regulation 100m. The in-goal areas will also be 1.6m smaller at each end.

This has led Manly to make some changes to their preparation for round one as they historically play with width and tempo. Daly Cherry-Evans is also somewhat of a forced dropout expert, with one of the best short-kicking games in the competition. However, with the smaller field and shorter in-goal area, he and new recruit Luke Brooks will have to adapt their kicking games.

So ahead of their Las Vegas advantage, Manly has moved to emulate the American conditions, with the team cutting its training field down to size for Wednesday's session. Souths had already moved to train on a smaller field to prepare for the season opener, with Heffron Park cut down to size last week.

The size of the field is anticipated to impact Manly and Souths the most as both teams like to play with width. The Rabbitohs score the majority of their tries out wide, while the Sea Eagles are known for sweeping backline moves to get the most out of Tom Trbojevic. The Roosters and Broncos are likely to be less impacted by the field size, with both sides preferring to play through the middle.

GOSFORD, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 11:  Luke Brooks of the Sea Eagles kicks during the NRL pre-season trial match between Manly Sea Eagles and South Sydney Rabbitohs at Industree Group Stadium on February 11, 2024 in Gosford, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Luke Brooks says Manly will have to change their style slightly, to play more through the middle with the narrower field in Las Vegas. Image: Getty (Matt King via Getty Images)

Brooks and halves partner Daly Cherry-Evans are expected to speak at length about changes to their kicking games as a whole. Plays such as 40-20s will theoretically become easier with a shorter field, however, the narrower field will make the angle harder to hit, with an increased risk of putting the ball out on the full.

The main change will likely be to grubber kicks, with shorter in-goals creating a greater risk of the ball going dead and giving away a seven-tackle set. However, Cherry-Evans believes it is important the Sea Eagles don't overhaul the way they play for just one match.

"How much we have to change when it comes to tactics and that, that's probably the stuff each club's going to have their own philosophy around," he told AAP. "We'd like to think we're going to keep a lot of the themes that we want for the season, so we're not going to drastically change a whole heap."

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Brooks, however, admitted the team will have to change their style slightly, to play more through the middle with the narrower field. "It will definitely make a difference because you have less room in attack," Brooks said of the smaller field.

"It does become more of a forwards game because they obviously have less room to go around them. You've definitely got to go through them."

Brooks also pointed out that the smaller field means more than just a play style adaption, explaining that it changes where playmakers have to stand in relation to their second-rowers. "Where they (the second-rowers) stand usually, we might have to take it two (steps) in," Brooks said.

"It might feel a bit crowded. We'll have to practise it, and see if we need to make adjustments. I would say there is a good chance we will."

with AAP

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