Hasler hopes Manly can slip under radar - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hasler hopes Manly can slip under radar

By Todd Balym 06/03/2009 10:21:34 PM Comments (0)

Success certainly hasn't changed Manly coach Des Hasler.

Even after the biggest grand final win in rugby league history and a World Club Challenge triumph, hype-avoiding Hasler insists his side are not the favourites to win the 2009 NRL premiership.

"We can still fly under the radar," said Hasler with more than a hint of optimism.

"Melbourne is just on everybody's radar. Melbourne are probably the pick of the teams.

"Them and the Broncos probably deserve the favouritism."

Even Hasler knows the likelihood of the Sea Eagles slipping quietly through the NRL season is impossible, especially after becoming world club champions.

Manly's 40-0 hammering of Melbourne in last year's decider showed the NRL just how powerful the Sea Eagles had become under Hasler's meticulous guidance.

Last week's 28-20 mauling of Leeds in the WCC in Britain emphasised there would be no premiership hangover, particularly as they led 26-4 after 47 minutes and took their foot off the pedal.

Both performances sent shockwaves through the NRL, yet Hasler is certain the Sea Eagles haven't peaked yet.

"I don't think it was a perfect game," Hasler said of their NRL premiership win.

"I just think the timing was right and the players were right and everybody was up to it."

Ominously for rivals only three premiership heroes have flown the nest for 2009. Veteran Steve Menzies, Mark Bryant and Steve Bell all linked with Super League clubs, along with 18th man Luke Williamson.

They've been replaced with determined young up and comers including five-eighth Chris Bailey (Newcastle), monster forward Tony Williams (Parramatta) and former Penrith premiership winner Shane Rodney.

Add to this the return to full fitness of prop George Rose from a horrific broken leg, and the Sea Eagles remain very strong right across the park.

"We have got so much versatility about us," noted Hasler.

"We have a number of players that can play in a number of different positions."

Regarded as the fittest team in 2008, Hasler said the players had reached their fitness targets this year despite extended off-season holidays for some players.

There are few changes to how Manly will play in 2009, except for a shift in the halves.

New recruit Bailey will step into five-eighth alongside skipper Matt Orford as Jamie Lyon returns to his more natural position of centre.

Manly's starting pack from the grand final remains intact, with Rodney and Tony Williams to provide impact off the bench much as Menzies and Bryant did.

However, the big question hovering for the northern beaches is how will Manly be affected by the representative season?

Only fullback Brett Stewart was called upon by NSW last season in a snubbing that had many noses out of joint across the Harbour Bridge.

It proved a blessing in disguise as the Sea Eagles ran rampant through the rep season period - winning six of seven games - to help propel them to equal ladder leaders at the end of the year.

But expect Manly's influence in the NSW Origin side to rise significantly this year, especially if Australian jumpers are any indication.

Brent Kite, Josh Perry, Glenn Stewart, Anthony Watmough and David Williams all starred for Australia at the World Cup and Hasler expects sky blue jumpers to go their way.

That would leave Manly severely depleted for two key clashes against 2008 finalists this year - at home to Canberra in round 15 and their round 18 away encounter with St George Illawarra.

"We don't know what impact the rep season might have on us," he said.

"I think if they maintain their form they will put their hand up most definitely."

One thing Hasler is not worried about is a lack of motivation among his squad.

He said the players had led the discussions about winning the WCC and defending their premiership.

"The players are the ones who are more aware of it," he said.

"They're well-drilled and know there is probably a little bit of extra pressure and acceleration of intensity in games they play because a lot more sides will be more aware of Manly now."

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