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Hasler, DCE face fight to keep jobs, Souths focus on defence from get-go against Roosters

Des Hasler’s chances of returning as Manly coach next year hinge on a raft of sweeping changes that new CEO Tony Mestrov is considering over the off-season.

While star fullback Tom Trbojevic has shot down speculation suggesting there’s a rift in the playing ranks, captain Daly Cherry-Evans could be in the firing line as well as the coach with Jake Trbojevic having support among the team to take over as skipper.

The Sea Eagles were arguably the biggest under-achievers in the NRL this season, capitulating with seven straight losses at the end of the season to fall from the top eight to 11th place.

Their season ended with Canterbury upsetting them 21-20 at Accor Stadium on Friday night in the last match for club stalwart Kieran Foran before he joins the Gold Coast.

Tom Trbojevic, whose season-ending shoulder injury in May contributed to Manly’s struggles, told The Sydney Morning Herald that he wanted Hasler to remain as coach and that the players had not fallen out with Cherry-Evans.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“We wanted to play finals football and we’ve underachieved. But a lot of the stuff being said is being over-dramatised. I don’t have any plans of leaving because as far as I’m concerned, Des is still the coach. Des is the best person to get us out of the hole we have got ourselves into at the moment.

“There are so many different personalities and characters within a football club that it’s only natural for some people to be closer than others. But to suggest there is any personal unrest from my end to anyone in the team is untrue, especially not with Chez.”

Hasler is off contract at the end of next year – he had a clause in his contract that could have triggered a 2024 extension if the team finished in the top six this season.

Trbojevic said he and his brother Jake were committed to seeing out their contracts at the club which run until the end of 2026.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Bunnies must hold firm from the start: Nicholls

South Sydney have the statistics on their side but veteran Mark Nicholls says it will take more than that to avenge their round 25 loss when they meet the Sydney Roosters in an elimination final.

On Sunday, the Rabbitohs and Roosters will become the 20th set of teams since 2011 to meet in the last month of the regular season and then again in the finals series.

On 14 of the 19 previous occasions, the result has flipped in the finals.

The turning of the tables held true for the Rabbitohs and Roosters when they last had a rematch in the finals.

In 2019, the Rabbitohs defeated their local rivals in the last round of the season, only to fall to them a week later.

But Nicholls says the Rabbitohs can’t sit back hoping for the trend to continue, and instead must zero in on doing two things well come Sunday: starting fast and defending.

“You’ve got to start fast in every game but especially in the finals,” he told AAP.

“We know we can attack. For us, if we defend well, we know we’ve got points in us throughout the whole 80 minutes. It’s about defending for us.”

The Rabbitohs managed to outscore the Roosters in the final three quarters of Friday night’s clash between the two rivals but were left to rue a slow start that had them trailing 14-0 after 20 minutes.

“We can take positives out of our second half but they definitely turned up and started very physically,” he said.

“If we don’t do that next week, we’re going to get the same result.”

Nicholls was a member of the 2020 South Sydney team that came within a sliver of a grand final berth despite finishing sixth.

The veteran will be imparting some wisdom on his younger teammates as they look to defy the odds and make it further this time around.

“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing in the big games,” he said.

“In rugby league, anyone can win on their day, and I think that’s always been the message. 

“I’ve seen plenty of times when teams are expected to win and they lose, and vice versa. Anything can happen, especially in the big games.”

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