Gold Coast Titans coach Des Hasler has apologised to the family of a Manly Sea Eagles player who died suddenly after a training session on November 23, 2020. Keith Titmuss suffered a seizure following a cardio session at the Sea Eagles base at Narrabeen, on Sydney's northern beaches. He died five hours later in hospital.
An inquest into the 20-year-old's death previously heard Titmuss likely suffered exertional heat stroke, however, an autopsy was unable to confirm the exact cause of his death. After providing evidence at an inquest into his death, Hasler directly addressed the young man's family, including father Paul and mother Lafo.
"Keith was a beautiful boy, he was much loved and very highly regarded and respected," Hasler said. "I'm just so heartbroken of the events that transpired.
"I remember talking to Paul and Lafo, and Lafo saying that morning they had breakfast together and (Keith) walked out the front door, but that evening he never came home. I am so, so sorry and I share your heartbreak, I really do."
Hasler was sacked by Manly in 2022 and has since been appointed as the head coach of the Titans. The premiership-winning coach told the inquest that during that pre-season training session at Manly, the young players were eager to prove themselves, however, admitted it was up to the club to create a space where it isn't acceptable for players to overexert and potentially injure themselves.
"It's really important once (players) come under our duty that there is a real focus on knowledge absorption and understanding about their journey," he said. "From the outset, particularly for younger players, there is a need not to overstride ... to overcome that emotion of, 'I must succeed, I must impress the coach'."
When pressed about if he had any regrets about the training session knowing what he now knows about heat exertion, the Titans coach said it is a hard question to answer in hindsight. "Anyone that is under my care, I would do anything to prevent such a tragic accident," he said.
"Before the training sessions start we instruct the players and show them the plan of what is to happen and if they're feeling ill or feeling like they're not coping well with it ... that they raise their hand and let us know. It's essential (for them) to understand the last thing we want to do is to injure them or not to have them on the field, that's really important as part of our culture."
Des Hasler says the intensity of the training session has been over exaggerated
While admitting the training session would have been challenging following the off-season break, Hasler believes the level of intensity quoted has been over exaggerated. He says players had rest breaks to recover and rehydrate in between cardio phases and rated the intensity between six and seven out of 10. The inquest previously heard one player describe the session intensity as a nine out of 10.
"It was the first training session back with the new group so we were very cautious of not overloading," Hasler said. "This is new to them, it makes no sense to get a player to go beyond what they can because we want to keep them on the field, keep them training and get them to the stage where they can compete."
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