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Manly's Des Hasler has never once lost a preliminary final that he's been involved in - both as a player and coach.
However, any suggestions that the astonishing record might be daunting to Manly's preliminary finals opponents South Sydney on Friday night, have been emphatically shut down by veteran coach Wayne Bennett.
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While Bennett is a veteran of 14 preliminary finals and 10 deciders as coach, Hasler holds an unblemished record in grand final qualifiers.
Eight times Hasler has reigned supreme in a grand final qualifier - three times with Manly as a player and five as a coach with the Sea Eagles and Canterbury.
"I don't know what the secret is, I don't think there is a secret. But that's a good fact... comforting," Hasler said about the record on Thursday.
"Probably being at this stage, being able to win (is the one trait a team needs).
"It's an important mentality, all players and every part of the coaching faculty knows that it's do or die and that's what makes this time or these particular games so much different to the others."
On the opposite hand, Souths are through to their fourth preliminary final in as many years and desperately need to clear that particular hurdle in Bennett's last season at the club.
The ex-Brisbane mentor has lost four of the past five preliminary finals he's coached in, including two with Souths and two with the Broncos - making the 2015 decider opposite eventual premiers North Queensland.
While Bennett will be determined to right those wrongs on Friday night, he denies there is any great significance behind Hasler's preliminary finals record.
“That’s a bit of a myth stat, that one,” Bennett said of Hasler's unbeaten record.
“What about all of the preliminary finals we don’t make as a coach? You just talk about how many you made, what about the ones you didn’t make? That’s a myth statement.”
While the master coach does have a point, the stunning truth is that when Hasler's sides have made it as far as the preliminary final, a grand final appearance has always followed.
Des Hasler's September record put to the test
The last preliminary final Hasler didn't make was in 2019 when Bennett and the Rabbitohs knocked Manly out 34-26 in the semi-finals.
In 17 seasons Hasler has won two premierships with Manly, and in only three years did he fail to make the finals at all - in 2020 and 2004 with the Sea Eagles and in his last year with the Bulldogs in 2017.
It says something about the mentality of Hasler-coached teams and their approach to September.
"We've been good friends for a long time Des and myself, I've always admired what he's done," Bennett said.
"We used to go to Armidale camps together, he was a player and I was a coach back in the '90s and I coached against him in the 1987 grand final playing for Manly, and when he came into coaching he used to come and visit me every so often just to get a few ideas and so forth.
"We have a wonderful relationship."
Come Friday night though that relationship will be put to one side as Bennett tries to end three straight preliminary finals disappointments for the Bunnies by doing something no one has yet managed against Hasler.
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