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Hasler faces monumental task to stop jersey fiasco derailing Manly’s season

It will be a monumental task if Des Hasler can get his team up for Thursday night’s game against the Roosters after all the drama of the past few days.

As a first-grade coach, it’s hard enough to keep team harmony over the course of a 40-week campaign which starts in pre-season training and, if you’re lucky, goes all the way until the end of September.

Their players and all the hard work they’ve done since the start of last November to get to this point could be put in jeopardy in one foul swoop.

The pride jersey chaos that’s engulfed his Sea Eagles has come from left field and blindsided their coach, the players and their fans.

But it’s also similar to a lot of other dramas that can hit a team out of nowhere, whether it’s down to bad luck like a string of injuries or COVID-19 cases or a self-inflicted wound from within the club which this one appears to be.

I think the game has come a long way and done plenty of great work to ensure everyone feels included. It’s a lot more accepting now of a whole range of things than it’s ever been. 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 26: Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler speaks to the media during a Manly Warringah Sea Eagles NRL media opportunity at 4 Pines Park on July 26, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

We have seen first-hand how the same-sex marriage debate has caused conflict within many families when a few years ago when we all had to vote on it. Thankfully common sense prevailed because before then same sex couples had to go overseas to get married. I wondered why it took so long but for deeply religious people they have much stronger feelings about it than most of us.

This incident has put everyone in a difficult position. The players that are choosing not to play haven’t done anything wrong, they’ve got their beliefs and I don’t think their teammates who play on Thursday night in a weakened team will hold it against them.

Someone will cop the blame for how it all went down – rugby league is very good at that. We saw that with Graham Annesley, the NRL’s head of football, fronting the media on Monday after the bunker’s decision cost the Tigers what may have been a well-deserved win over the Cowboys the day before.

As a result the chief bunker official Ashley Klein who made the controversial call has been stood down from all duties this weekend.

The poor old coach is the figurehead of the organisation and sometimes has to take the brunt of the spotlight and Des was that person on Tuesday. He went to great lengths to explain the rationale behind the decision and that it was done with the right intentions. But he was also required to apologise on behalf of the football club for something that was not well thought out and didn’t have the acceptance of all the stakeholders. Maybe it will be the head of marketing, the head of community projects or some high flying official at the Sea Eagles who will have to take the blame.

Before the weekend I reckon Des was contemplating how his Covid players (who missed their defeat against the Dragons) would come back to training and how they would handle the demands of a six day preparation for an important game against the improving Sydney Roosters.

Sometimes things in our game are totally out of your control and his job is to prepare that team in the best way possible for the game.

For the Sea Eagles, it’s only going to be one week where they’re without seven of their best players but it’s such an important game given they are on the same points as the Roosters.

Penrith are runaway competition leaders but we saw a couple of weeks ago when they went into the game against the team coming last, the Wests Tigers, they only just were able to get a win.

Manly are playing against a team that’s found some form in the past couple of weeks and they’re getting Joey Manu and Lindsay Collins back.

It’s far from ideal for your team’s preparations and deep down Des must be privately seething how about this has gone down.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 04: Jason Saab of the Sea Eagles celebrates scoring a try with team mates during the round 13 NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the New Zealand Warriors at 4 Pines Park, on June 04, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Jason Saab celebrates scoring a try with teammates. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

You never want to give the opposition any unnecessary advantage whether it’s injury, lack of recovery, home-ground advantage, etc. There’s enough disadvantages every week without this kind of off-field distraction which is going to have an impact on the team, the coach, the captain and the fans, who are supporting their club. 

They’ll be asking this question why has this happened at this time of year six weeks out from the finals.

I don’t want to make light of the situation by saying it’s just a game of football, which it is, but it’s an important one for Manly. 

But they’ll need more than an ounce of luck to go their way after the events of the past few days. 

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