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Manly with a late push to be named NRL’s worst-run club in 2022

There is a hot field when it comes to the matter of the worst-run clubs in the NRL this year.

Apparently Jack Gibson had something to say about winning starting in the front office and we’ve seen evidence of it yet again with the on-field battlers.

I’ve noticed that a number of the teams that are done on the park for the year have something in common when it comes to their off-field fortunes.

Newcastle have been busy trumpeting their $20 million centre of excellence in the hope no one will notice they’ve gone from back-to-back finals campaigns to third-last – only avoiding second-last courtesy of Luke Metcalf’s wayward conversion attempt in the final play of the Knights’ last home game (leaving the Warriors to rue Craig Fitzgibbon’s decision to sub off Nicho Hynes).

Not to be outdone, the Sea Eagles point to their $32.5 million centre, last year’s fourth-best side showing the Novocastrians what it costs to truly tumble from contention.

But making these two clubs look like the paupers they are, the Wests Tigers are unveiling a $75 million centre, complete with a barber shop, as evidence of just how clueless the club is when it comes to what’s required to play finals footy (hint: it’s not a haircut).

If I’m an Eels fan, I’d be deeply concerned about what 2023 holds for my team, given their plans to move into a $60 million facility in Kellyville (nowhere to get a fade I guess, hence the $15 million difference in price).

And, as a side note, is anyone else noticing a decided GOB Bluth trend in what it costs to suit up a centre of excellence these days? Come on!

But a COE gives these clubs something to point to as evidence of their sterling work off the field – how else could they afford such fancy digs?

Well, I’ll just say this: at the end of the day, you’re in the business of winning footy games. And cousin, business is not a’boomin.

But then, for the Tigers, that’s been the case for a decade, so I guess 2022 is just a continuation of the usual. And there is more than a sneaking suspicion that the Knights’ last two seasons were an anomaly, rather than the start of something different (winning) in the Hunter.

As for the Sea Eagles? Man, what a complete enigma of a club.

I can’t remember a time when their board wasn’t in a fight and their CEO hadn’t handed in his notice, yet this year is regarded as a disaster largely because they didn’t make the eight.

Even after losing the services of the best player in the 2021 comp, Manly were still in the hunt for the finals, winning four of their next seven games.

Then came the Pride fiasco and the Sea Eagles didn’t win again.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

This has led to comparisons to the Dragons’ BBQ in 2021, which effectively ended their season, but I’d point out what I regard as the major difference.

There was no intentional disrespect of the coach on the Northern Beaches.

St George Illawarra’s players were told directly that they were not to celebrate a win and then went behind Anthony Griffin’s back and did it anyway.

For Manly, a cultural issue caused the fissure – something that is way beyond the control or responsibility of Des Hasler.

I can’t pretend to understand the stance the Manly Seven took, but I’m not going to throw stones at them either, precisely because I don’t understand.

This was highlighted to me by a former colleague, who posted a pic on her Facebook timeline of the seven players that read “Free to believe – we stand with these Manly players”.

A proud Pasifika woman who loves footy, my former colleague is also gay.

All I’m saying is that as a straight white man, this matter has a depth to it that is beyond my ken and maybe people in a similar boat to myself would do well to acknowledge as much before casting any judgement.

Which is essentially what Hasler did when he bravely fronted the media in the aftermath of this whole thing blowing up.

He apologised to all involved – including, by name, “the LGBTQ community” and “the minority groups within the community who embraced the rainbow colours as a symbol of pride” – but at no point did he throw any of his players under the bus.

No surprise really, given Des did the same for the likes of Brett Stewart, Dylan Walker and Manase Fainu when they found themselves in trouble with the law. He is a fiercely loyal man and while I’m sure he doesn’t always condone their actions, he supports his boys in a manner I honestly can’t think of any other coach doing.

Yet for some crazy reason, Manly are weighing up whether Des has a long-term future at their club.

Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler looks on during a Manly Warringah Sea Eagles NRL training session

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The man who took them to the top four last year and was on track to at least get them to the eight this year, despite being without the best player of the ’21 season, and whose efforts were trampled not by him or his ineptitude but by a lack of care and consultation from the front office on an issue that any idiot could tell was at least going to raise questions from a culturally diverse playing group.

Not for nothing, he’s also the bloke who led them to their last two titles – and been part of four including his time as a player – and turned them around from the rabble they were following Trent Barrett’s tenure.

Des is as Manly as anyone with the surname Fulton and should be as inextricably linked with the club as Craig Bellamy is with the Melbourne Storm.

A time will come when he has had enough of the coaching caper, at which point he should be appointed to some sort of role that ensures he continues to have an active part in the club – and stay there for as long as he wants.

But the scuttlebutt is that he may be out of a job, be it due to having been pushed or jumped due to lack of support, as soon as this week.

At this stage, the tussle is still on for the worst-run club of 2022 – the Knights’ NRLW side can pull them out of the running, while Tim Sheens being seen to do anything would be a start for the Tigers.

Regardless of the other two, if Des Hasler is not on the payroll at the Sea Eagles come December 31, Manly will be getting my vote.

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