In years to come, it will become the ultimate trivia question: which club sacked its reigning premiership-winning coach?
In the sporting world, I can only think of one possible comparison with the insanity that has prevailed at the Manly Sea Eagles after they sacked Des Hasler.
Back in 2006, reigning A-League champions Sydney FC reportedly cut coach Pierre Littbarski’s salary drastically before the start of season two. Understandably, Littbarski left.
But he wasn’t sacked, and the ignominy of this ridiculous saga has, to the best of my knowledge, not be played out at any club that are the reigning champions.
Des Hasler has performed miracles at Manly. A club on the brink of folding when he took over, operating on a shoestring budget, in direct deference to their popular image, and he has led them to two premierships in four seasons, with another “moral” victory after the Storm were stripped of the 2007 title.
Manly supporters should have been concerned in June this year when the stories began circulating that the club and Hasler were somewhat apart in negotiations for a contract extension. The concern would have become real disappointment when it was announced Hasler would be leaving the club just days after taking them to the 2011 title. That disappointment will now be real anger.
There are accusations that Hasler was playing his Bulldogs cards too early by trying to shore up key Manly players for Canterbury in 2013. I have a feeling that may play out in the courts, as it sounds like a ploy to avoid paying Hasler out of the last year of his contract, a contract that only one month ago he and the club were happy to honour.
One of the by-products of this mess is the insanity of having coaches and players announce their new employers a season ahead of time. I simply cannot fathom why this is necessary, or why the mythical June 30 deadline ever existed. I understand that with a salary cap there are financial implications that don’t exist in, say, European football. But coaches are not part of the cap, and the game does have a longer off-season than aforementioned leagues.
Regardless of those arguments, this is a case where the Manly board have betrayed fans and players alike. They have also handed new coach Geoff Toovey an almost impossible job.
All of which would have been avoided if they had given Hasler the contract he deserved months ago.