Des Hasler, one of the most successful NRL coaches of the modern era, is set to return to the club where he made his name. Hasler is a legend on the Northern beaches, having won two premierships as a player and two more as a coach (after rebuilding from the Northern Eagles debacle) for the club, however he left in acrimonious circumstances in 2011 to go to the Bulldogs.
Manly continued to be successful after Hasler left, making the grand final in 2013, but things started to go south. They have only made the top 8 once since 2015 (when Trent Barrett became coach), with a 6th place finish last year. This year they finished 15th and only narrowly missed collecting the clubs first ever wooden spoon.
Barrett resigned with 12 months’ notice in July this year, effectively making his position as head coach untenable for 2019. Due to the acrimonious nature of Barrett’s exit, which included publically complaining about the lack of resources and facilities at the club, it was hard to find an experienced replacement.
Manly supporters wanted a “Manly man” brought in again, someone who understands the club culture and (preferably) contributed to their glory days. With Ivan Cleary (who is the only 2018 head coach to have played for Manly) possibly the most in-demand coach in the NRL, that meant bringing either Geoff Toovey (who coached from 2012-14) or Hasler back in from the cold.
Hasler left Manly for Sydney rivals the Canterbury Bulldogs, where he took them to two grand finals and the top 8 every year but 2017. The Bulldogs committed to giving him a 2 year contract in early 2017, but later reneged and left him jobless in 2018. Hasler has spent the year in a long running legal battle with the club.
With Hasler seemingly unwanted and the Sea Eagles desperate for an experienced coach (preferably a Manly one) the time was ripe for the prodigal son to return. Hasler has been unveiled as coach for the next 3 years, with Barrett’s role yet to be determined – although apparently he got very good at bringing the chairs and cleaning out the dressing rooms at Brookvale Oval.
Hasler will face a number of challenges next year, trying to lift the Sea Eagles from 15th. He has a very good core squad, however, featuring a number of players who represented Australia, New Zealand and Tonga this year. With the optimism surrounding his return to the Beaches and the valuable big game experience gained by some key players this year expectations will be high.