Manly are playing with fire when it comes to the future of head coach Des Hasler, some NRL obersvers believe, after the veteran mentor was instructed to recruit two assistants who could take over from him in future.
The plan, which is reminiscent of South Sydney's approach with former coach Wayne Bennett and incumbent Jason Demitriou, was put to Hasler during last week's crisis meeting.
However the meeting, which was called in order for the club to gain new direction amid reports Hasler's time at Brookvale could be over sooner rather than later, has reportedly done little to soothe lingering tension within the playing group.
It has been a remarkable turn of events for Hasler, who coached the Sea Eagles to a top-four finish in 2021, only for injuries and off-field controversies to derail their 2022 campaign.
Manly's plans for Hasler have left many eyebrows raised, with the Daily Telegraph David Riccio suggesting on NRL360 Hasler's pursuit of a successor could have unintended consequences for the rest of the list.
With the playing group already at odds over the club's preide jersey saga earlier in the year, Riccio suggested brothers Jake and Tom Trbojevic were no certainly to stay at Brookvale Oval if Hasler was moved on.
“No great clarity as far as Des’ future at the club is concerned, however I can tell you, based on the process Manly want to start to see a succession plan,” Riccio.
“This is what Souths did with Bennett and Demetriou, this is what Manly want out of Des, and I understand that process has begun with Des starting to identify a number of key coaches.
“The process is underway for him to identify two assistant coaches to sit with Des for the next two seasons, which is why the 2024 contract remains up in the air, and then eventually take over.
“I have got no faith those Trbojevic boys stay if Des goes.”
Others were similarly concerned for the Sea Eagles' short term future, with questions also being raised about Daly Cherry-Evans' suitability as captain.
Manly Sea Eagles' plans for Des Hasler questioned amid NRL saga
Some have suggested Manly have been too hard on Hasler this year, considering the club was hobbled by injuries to the Trbojevic brothers for much of the season.
Hasler also had little responsibility in the circumstances the pride jersey saga, having been put in the awkward position of having to answer questions about a rift in the playing group as a result.
NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent said Manly had been 'insulting' Hasler by taking him with finding his own successor.
“I think it is insulting to Des that they have put that on him.
“Because it has put an end on his coaching career, who is to say Des didn’t think he had five or six more years at Manly.
“Let’s look at Craig Bellamy, what if three or five years ago Melbourne were gone.
“I just find it insulting they have come out and said to him bring in a succession plan, and let’s remember, they were in the eight until the jersey fiasco, Tom hasn’t played for most of the year.
“The fact is Des got them to the top four last year, he had numerous things go against him this year and the club’s response to it is, give us a succession plan now, I find it highly insulting.”
Kent also said there were clear distinctions between the successful and unsuccessful succession plans in the NRL, with Manly risking disaster of Hasler wasn't fully on-board.
He said that while Souths were an example of such a plan working well, there were plenty of other examples where they had set clubs back years.
“The other thing they have to be really careful too is, we talk about the succession plan at Souths with Bennett and Demetriou, alternatively, look at what happened at the Broncos when they forced Bennett to do what he didn’t want to do and they threw Seibold in,” Crawley said.
“They didn’t have the administration around him, well at Manly we all know Scott Penn runs the club from New York, they have got a guy in, Tony Mestrov, who by all reports has done a great job in greyhound racing, but he is not proven at NRL.
“He has had a warring club, if you throw a rookie coach into the mix there like they did with Trent Barrett it could blow up in their face.
“And ultimately, you have got the Trbojevic brothers there who are supporters of Des, they want to win and they don’t want to waste their careers at a club that’s not going forward.”
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