The Sea Eagles pride jersey saga has exposed the club’s “serious internal problems” — and reportedly left coach Des Hasler’s future at the club in doubt.
Seven Manly players refused to wear the rainbow-trimmed LGBTQIA strip representing members of the marginalised community and in the process kicked off the club’s downward spiral.
Des Hasler’s side were firmly in the finals race in Round 20 and a win against the Roosters was crucial to mounting a late charge, but without Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olaka’uatu Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley Manly were bested 20-10.
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Now with three defeats on the trot, including a 44-24 flogging at the hands of the last-placed Titans, the “fractured” dressing room has been exposed.
“I said at the time, and I have been saying it like a broken record, I think it fractured the dressing sheds,” The Daily Telegraph’s Buzz Rothfield said on the Big Sports Breakfast.
“Again I don’t want to be critical of those players, I’d just like to hear from them to get a better understanding of their reasons.
“But they were really poor, leaked 38 points to the Titans, that is just not on for a team that was mathematically still alive in the competition.
“It (the pride jersey saga) was a real turning point moment for the Sea Eagles, it has been really really disappointing the back-end of the season.
“Obviously the pride jersey has affected them, you had ten players who were prepared to turn up and play for their season against the Roosters, and you had seven who didn’t.
“I think it has ruined their season, because they are not playing like they can.”
Manly owner Scott Penn backed Hasler as the club’s long-term coach, telling Big Sports Breakfast radio “Des has a contract for as long as he wants”.
But The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield revealed Hasler has failed in his bid to have a key clause removed from his contract that meant Manly needs to make the finals this season to trigger an extension.
If he misses that mark, which is almost a certainty after a Round 22 rout, the experienced boss could face the axe in 2023.
“Des’ manager, George Mimis met with the club two weeks ago but can’t get rid of that clause in the contract that he has to make the top eight or top six this year to get an extension,” Rothfield said.
“What this means is Des is under enormous pressure to turn it all around next year, I don’t know if they have brought in a lot of new talent.
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“They are losing Kieran Foran, they have got to get Josh Schuster fit to play five-eighth next year.”
The Sea Eagles have reportedly continued to shield the seven players who stood down from the media according to The Daily Telegraph.
Player agent Mario Tartak explained “Des is protecting them” when approaches were made to interview young Josh Schuster.
Meanwhile, Hasler and skipper Daly Cherry-Evans were left to front the media in the wake of the pride jersey furore.
Hasler criticised the club’s handling of the pride jersey saga, a stance Rothfield revealed may have painted a target on his back.
“Can I read between the lines here that there is not total support here for Des?” Rugby league legend Laurie Daley asked.
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“I think you can, and Scott Penn said Des is here as long as he wants, but if Des was here as long as he wants I think there would have been more public support,” Rothfield said.
“They would just extend him… if you really wanted him you would extend him now,” Daley said.
“Des was quite critical of the management and the board for the manner in which they handled it, I say good on him,” Rothfield said.
“But I don’t think it won any support from the board, I think they were expecting him to toe more of a company line.
“But the bottom line is they don’t have results this year, and I am not prepared to blame Des for that, I blame the pride jersey fiasco because they were well and truly in the race.
“It is pretty obvious there are serious internal problems within that club.”
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