Hasler brings defence back to Manly

Des Hasler is working hard to put starch back in Manly's defence in his return to the NRL club.
Des Hasler is working hard to put starch back in Manly's defence in his return to the NRL club.

Des Hasler's return to Manly is being built around defence and his players are feeling the brunt physically and mentally.

Hasler's task to rebuild from the rubble of the Sea Eagles' 15th-placed 2018 season is a far cry from the one he faced before departing in 2011 after overseeing two premierships from three grand finals.

His influence has been strong and sweeping, with the first public signs to go on show in Manly's opening trial match against Cronulla on Saturday.

Players know they can't get away with anything with more cameras around training, and regular video reviews of each session.

Sessions have been longer too, with mentally-drained players challenged in defence.

"He's put a lot of work into our defence," Jake Trbojevic said on Monday.

"We've done some really hard sessions out there, full contact stuff for long periods of time. Trying to test us mentally in that area."

Crucially, the Sea Eagles let in an NRL-worst 622 points last season, over 150 more than Des Hasler's season average across his coaching career.

His teams are usually renowned for defence.

Manly have conceded more than 500 points in the past three seasons. Hasler has only done that three times in his 14 years of coaching.

"There has to be a massive defensive mindset from this side," captain Daly Cherry-Evans said.

"We've got a lot of the same players as last season so naturally if we can continue to progress as players we'll continue to score points.

"But we have to be able to make sure we're defending well and giving ourselves more opportunities to win footy games with our defence."

There are some innovations from Hasler though.

The play-making forward model he used at Canterbury is gone, with Trbojevic certain the Sea Eagles will make far more use of their halves.

And while Cherry-Evans told teammates Hasler would be "entirely different" , he's revelling in returning to football under his former mentor.

"We're seeing the game put to us in a different way," he said.

"With the way Des prepares us for games there are not stones unturned, it's very prepared and it's exciting.

"I was young and everything was a whirlwind back then (when Hasler left after Cherry-Evans' rookie year in 2011).

"He's come back a different coach with more experience but he's certainly got his old habits.

"He's a creature of habit, there's things he won't budge on."

Australian Associated Press