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Stewart drama affecting Eagles: Hasler

25/03/2009 07:25:21 PM Comments (0)

Manly coach Des Hasler admits the sexual assault charges hanging over Brett Stewart's head have affected the NRL premiers during their sluggish start to the season.

The Sea Eagles have made a rocky start to their title defence by losing to the Bulldogs and the New Zealand Warriors in the opening two rounds.

And Hasler said the NRL title holders were "really hurting" for Stewart and badly missing his services on the paddock.

"It is understandable, it is very hard to put a measurement on it," Hasler said.

"I can tell you they are really hurting for Brett Stewart.

"Brett Stewart is a decent person and they know Brett Stewart is a decent person and Brett Stewart will again be a great role model."

The Kangaroos fullback had been the face of the NRL's marketing campaign this year before Manly's ill-fated season launch.

Not that anything had changed Hasler's faith in his charge.

"I think Brett Stewart is the best fullback in the world, so obviously we're going to miss him," Hasler said.

Manly prop Brent Kite described Stewart's situation as an "injustice" but hoped his teammates were not taking their frustrations onto the field.

"I don't think we carry it on the field but it is hard to see what you think is an injustice, to not be upset by it," Kite said.

"I hope we are not taking it on the field."

Stewart is due back at Manly Local Court on April 7 and is expected to be free to play the following weekend when they host Wests Tigers in round five.

Clive Churchill Medallist Kite said it was important for the Sea Eagles to stay mentally strong ahead of Monday's clash with fellow winless side Penrith at Brookvale Oval.

"Mainly mental, there is a lot of expectation on the side," he said.

"We have spoken about a lot of these things and the challenges we might face this year and knowing what is going to come up against us and then overcoming them are two different things.

"We just have to stay together."

Manly lost their opening two matches of last year before rolling to the club's seventh title win in four decades.

Hasler said it was time for his troops to come good following their ill-disciplined performance in their 26-24 home loss to the New Zealand Warriors on Sunday.

"It is about taking action now without talking about it too much and throwing up the usual cliches and observations," he said.

"We just need to take action and take action on it pretty quickly. It is as simple as that."

Meanwhile, Penrith lodged their appeal on Wednesday to the NRL to be awarded the two competition points deducted from the Bulldogs for having 14 players on the field in Saturday's clash at CUA Stadium.

The Bulldogs were notified on Monday they would be docked the points for having an extra player on the field when Ben Roberts scored the match-winning try in the dying minutes of the 28-26 victory.

Penrith's chances of success appear slim.

"There are no precedents in the NRL for the losing team to be allocated the points in similar circumstances," NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley said.

The Bulldogs have until next week to appeal the NRL's decision.

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