The ink had barely dried on the July 12, 2007 issue of Rugby League Week than Des Hasler was on the blower and on the warpath.
One of his Manly men, Jamie Lyon, had been handed the unwanted tag of ‘most overrated’ in the magazine’s annual players’ poll and Des was less than impressed.
As editor of RLW at the time, it was me who fielded the call, and for the next 30 minutes we traded verbal blows over everything from the legitimacy of the poll to the stats which showed Lyon was having a stellar season and did not deserve the clip he’d copped from his peers.
For the record, the Manly centre had received 38 per cent of the votes in the most overrated player category and Des was convinced we’d plucked that figure from the sky to bring down a big-name player and bump up sales.
How could 38 blokes seriously believe that a man who’d played for his state and country and won the Man of Steel in England was overrated, was the crux of Dessie’s argument.
Lyon went on to win the premiership the following year and played Origin and Test footy in 2010, sending the ultimate ‘up yours’ to his critics.
By the time Lyon retired in 2016, Hasler had long shifted across town to the Bulldogs, taking them to grand finals in 2012 and 2014 and missing the play-offs just once in six years at the helm.
Much has changed since the day Dessie rang RLW in a rage but one thing that has remained constant is his loyalty to his men.
And with all that’s unfolded at Manly in the past week, loyalty is needed more than ever at Brookvale.
In the wake of the 46-4 drubbing at the hands of the Roosters, Hasler could have been forgiven for putting a broom through the starting 13 ahead of a round two showdown with South Sydney.
Instead, he made just one change, with Andrew Davey coming in for Jack Gosiewski.
Hardly the response of a man prone to panic or overreaction.
Sure, the SCG showing was a shocker, but there’s no way Hasler was throwing a bunch of players onto the scrap heap in the wake of one loss.
Having taken the field 255 times as a player for Manly, Hasler knows full well that form can fluctuate and anyone can have a bad day. He knows every player who took the field against the Roosters will be counting the days until they get a shot at redemption at Lottoland.
With all that’s unfolded at Manly in the past week, loyalty is needed more than ever.
If four decades as a player and coach have taught Hasler anything, it’s that a little bit of faith can go a long way, and a reassuring hand on the shoulder beats a knife in the back any day.
And just as Des stuck by his players, so too the club has stayed solid with the coach, set to honour a handshake agreement done late last year to extend his contract beyond 2021.
As one of the club’s favourite sons and a central figure in four of the club’s eight premierships, it’s the least he deserved.
Match Highlights: Sea Eagles v Raiders
He was there as halfback in 1987, alongside Cliff Lyons, Paul Vautin and Noel Cleal as Manly won the last ever grand final played at the SCG.
Nine years later, in the twilight of his career, Hasler came off the bench as Manly downed St George 20-8 to deliver another title to the Brookie faithful.
In 2004 he took the reins as coach and by 2007 the Eagles were back in a decider, going down to arch-rivals the Storm.
Match Highlights: Sea Eagles v Storm
Revenge was sweet in 2008 when Hasler’s men sent Steve Menzies out a winner with a record-breaking 40-0 demolition of Melbourne, and in 2011 they were again at the top of the NRL mountain after beating the Warriors in the big one.
All of which amounts to a mighty commitment to the Manly cause and mighty good reason for club officials to show faith in Hasler.
The kind of faith Hasler has shown in his players, from 2007 when Lyon’s reputation was on the line, to 2021 when cool heads needed to prevail after a Rooster rout.
Sea Eagles in 2021
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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.