SMITHY: The secret of Hasler’s success
Bulldogs NRL coach Des Hasler. AAP Image/Dean Lewins
I don’t subscribe to that tired old line that there is only one successful coach in every footy season. It’s bleeding obvious that there is definitely one VERY successful head coach and crew on grand final day.
And don’t they deserve it.
It’s a very long road to get there in any season and even tougher to ensure you are the best team on that day – don’t tell me about it!
But so too should many other coaches feel successful in every season. Many do great things without achieving the one “success” that everyone wants.
For me, the most obvious in season 2012 was the success generated by Des Hasler and his crew in their first year in charge at the Bulldogs.
Even with some player acquisitions, both pre and mid-season, there were many questions being asked in previews of that season about the playing roster after such a miserable 2011 – most emphatically about the halves.
But first, as the old coaching adage says, “you will only find success comes before work in the dictionary”. Like all successful teams, the Dogs started with work.
Now, Des is well known for his no stone unturned approach to the preparation of his players and staff.
It might be hard to find a greater believer in detail and discipline in achieving 100% of capabilities. Des worked the group very hard in the pre-season, and as we all saw, his players responded in fantastic manner.
This meticulous and demanding regime-like approach sometimes leads to accusations of “control freak” in leaner times or times of great politics (in footy clubs? Never!)
But there were no lean times or politics in a Doggies club committed to their new coaching crew. And the head coach responded to that with what I honestly feel was one of the great coaching performances I have witnessed.
I read lots of books and articles about other sports and how their greatest coaches are successful.
Much of that info reveals coaches who have a strong personal philosophy on how to get the best out of people and the preferred style he would like his team to play.
Well, yeah, if you are fortunate enough to be coach at Real Madrid or Manchester City or Manly or the Broncos or Wigan in previous decades. Or perhaps get yourself a five or ten year deal, like one of those legendary college coaches in the States.
No salary cap issues, just blue sky.
Wow. Get back in the real world where some real coaching is required. Time and money to be able to purchase or create a team in your style is a luxury not too many NRL coaches get.
“Winning with what you got” is much more common and definitely what Hasler and others would have found on day one pre-season.
Never mind your own preferred style, this job requires a confident and resourceful leader to make something successful out of what is right there in front of you. Most of it inherited.
The Bulldogs 2012 coaches, players and staff developed a unique attacking style of possession play. Have we seen it before?
Well, kinda, but not with such repetitiveness or as the basis for almost all their possessions. And certainly not from your own side of half way.
The Dogs got MAXIMUM value out of their skilful forwards, mainly front rowers as first receivers to CREATE and threaten in equal measure.
This not only utilised Graham and Kasiano and co. in the skills and method they are best at, it asked questions of other teams that no other team did: questions that involved decision-making in defence in both quality and quantity.
That means the Bulldogs opponent’s defence was being asked bigger questions more often than on any other occasion in the season. And when they got the ball back, most of them were on the back foot with less energy and subsequently lacked quality.
The Doggies became more confident and more in control.
This concept of introducing something ‘new’ to your team is one I will be following up constantly this season.
I loved watching that stuff all year at the Dogs and I hate the negative style our game suffers from with cliche ridden, tired attitudes and behaviours and philosophies of predictable coaching.
Referring back to the questions of many fans and media in previews of the season, Hasler also removed the potential key issue of the “problem” by assessing the qualities and weaknesses of his playing roster accurately.
The halfback roles foreseen as a problem by the worry warts had been eliminated.
In this system, adapting to playing a possession style utilising the team’s strengths, he removed all concerns of the lack of skill/quality/experience/ability to steer the team around.
Brilliant analysis and plan.
It’s not always what your team or your player can add to his kit (or “skill set,” for the trendoids), it’s sometimes more important what he can take out to make him feel free and then confident.
Ad then, how easy is footy.
Reynolds and Keating appeared as if they couldn’t care less about their “diminished” traditional halfback roles.
What positions were they playing, anyway? Is there a name for what they performed?
Who cares what name or number a player is wearing in modern day sport. “It’s just, let’s get the job done”. At least, it was at the Dogs.
It seemed like no-one cared who got the credit or what job it was that anyone was asked to do. With that as an attitude, is it any wonder this club lit the whole league up.
If you haven’t checked it out, look at the rest of their teams from Harold Matts to NRL. What a season, alright, even without that big NRL grand final win they all wanted.
And for me, that great success from club to individuals came down to GREAT COACHING.
The challenges for 2013 won’t be any less for Hasler and the Dogs. They will be different and in my view some of the biggest for any club.
But getting the best out of the guys you have by implementing a style that suits their combined talents is not only great success but mighty satisfying I am sure for Hasler and all his crew.