Manly fans: give Hasler the respect he deserves
Should the Manly boardwalk for Hasler handling ineptitude? (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Spectator rivalry in rugby league is a wonderful thing, but every so often it simmers and spews over boundaries that should never be crossed.
And for this reason, I fear that Des Hasler’s return to Brookvale Oval as coach of the Bulldogs on Friday night could turn ugly.
Signs are blaring that Des is heading for a very uncomfortable night at his former base, Brookvale, and I am not referring to what actually transpires on the field.
There are plenty of Manly folk who have not forgiven Hasler for leaving the club last October, just five days after steering it to a second premiership after his brilliant, eight year tenure as the main man at Brookvale.
Roarers must have noticed the venom and vitriol levelled at Hasler on social websites and talkback radio when, a few days after the grand final triumph over NZ Warriors, he elected to sign with the Canterbury Bulldogs for season 2013 and beyond.
History shows that the Manly hierarchy wasn’t happy with Hasler’s decision to leave and gave him an immediate release, installing Geoff Toovey as the Sea Eagles’ first grade coach.
The level of hatred, if this is the right word, seems to have heightened in Sea Eagles territory in recent days as we all prepare for what shapes as the game of the year. I understand there will be visual (placards, posters, banners) as well as audible assaults planned for Hasler’s ‘homecoming’ from Manly supporters.
Canterbury and Manly have met once since that tumult of last year, with the camouflaged-jerseyed Eagles grafting out a tense 12-10 victory at ANZ Stadium in the 2012 Anzac Round.
But that wasn’t at Fortress Brookvale. This is.
Granted, Des Hasler is a very experienced campaigner and, knowing him pretty well, any public hullabaloo will be treated like water off a duck’s back.
I believe he deserves much better, especially at Brooky.
His service record with the Manly Warringah club richly entitles him to the tag of ‘All Time Great’, not ‘Des-erter’. The halfback-turned lock played 255 games in the maroon and white and spent a total of 11 years on the coaching staff – eight in first grade for three grand final appearances and two premierships.
It should be pointed out that he did not want to leave Manly at the time. He tried exhaustively to snare a contract upgrade/extension in the 18 months before his departure but the floundering Sea Eagles board kept stalling and baulking.
It’s a fact that the contract Hasler eventually signed with the Bulldogs was for less than Manly’s final money offer.
Why wouldn’t he leave for the job security he craved and join a financial, successful club with a highly stable and progressive administration?
Hasler deserves to be treated with the utmost respect when he brings his table-topping Bulldogs to Brookvale.
Anything less will be a blight on the people who love to say they hail from God’s country.
If they vent their fury in his direction after all he has done for the joint, I reckon they should all go to hell.