NRL SuperCoach Mythbusters: Des Hasler
In the first of our new series we investigate some of the SuperCoach myths surrounding Des Hasler and what impact his return to Brookvale will have on key Sea Eagles.
Hasler came under fierce criticism towards the end of his stint at the Bulldogs from fans who could not stomach his conservative attacking game plan.
Fast forward to 2019 and Des is back at Manly and the doomsayers claim that Hasler will:
* limit his forwards' output, in particular Marty Taupau, due to an aversion to the offload, and
* hobble his hookers.
While the past is not a perfect predictor of the future, it is still worth taking a look at Des' SuperCoach history to see if these myths are busted, confirmed or plausible.
MYTH: DOUR DES WILL CRASH THE MARTY PARTY
There is a strong school of thought that Hasler hates risky creative play (read offloads) from his forwards and will instruct the likes of Marty Taupau to remove it from their game.
In 2018, Taupau threw 47 effective offloads, second most in the league behind Andrew Fifita, which added close to 8 PPG to his scores. SuperCoaches would be understandably worried if there was a hint that Taupau's attacking flair would be constrained by Hasler.
Let's take a look at the number of effective offloads by the Bulldogs during Hasler's last three years at the club.
In 2015 the Bulldogs made 207 effective offloads. In 2016 they managed 196 and in 2017 that number went to 246.
Des' Dogs were at their most dour in 2017 and yet they threw more offloads than in 2015 or 2016.
It has been pointed out to me by a long term SuperCoach contributor Wilfred 'Catfish' Zee that overall offload numbers may not tell the whole story as during 2015-17 the most prolific offloaders at the Dogs were backs.
And Wilfred is right.
So to tease this out I should add that Des was still happy to allow a creative forward like Sam Kasiano (23 OL in 2017, 20 OL in 2016 and 38 in 2015) sling the rock.
The Bulldogs' big minute forwards under Hasler are not, and have not become since his departure, offloaders of the ball. But those that could, could even when Des was there whether they be forwards or backs.
* edit over and normal service resumes*
Hasler left the club at the end of 2017, and while there were roster changes so we're not exactly comparing apples with apples, it is interesting to note that the Bulldogs in 2018 made just 175 effective offloads.
Taupau did throw 23 ineffective offloads in 2018, more than double that of the next men on the list (Viliame Kikau and Esan Marsters with 10 apiece). I'm happy to bet that a stickler for attention to detail like Hasler has made Taupau aware of that stat.
Myth status: BUSTED. The stats indicate that despite Des' reputation for disliking offloads, teams he has coached have thrown plenty, and that Des won't restrain a creative forward. In fact, if Hasler can turn more of Taupau's ineffective offloads into effective ones, SuperCoaches could reap the reward.
MYTH: DES WILL HOBBLE HIS HOOKERS
Hasler brought one of the most exciting attacking young hookers in the game to the Bulldogs in 2015.
The player in question was Michael Lichaa, and the Bulldogs paid a high price for the youngster, effectively trading club stalwart Michael Ennis to the Sharks to get him.
And having paid that price, Hasler then proceeded to grind all the 'exciting' and 'attacking' out of Lichaa's game.
NB that Lichaa and Hasler's relationship was broken by the back half of the 2017 season and Hasler wanted to cut Lichaa loose from the Bulldogs. Lichaa played his last two games of the season aware he was on the outer and chose to ignore his coach's game plan and run the ball more. In those two games Lichaa made almost 20% of his hit-ups over eight metres and fully 33% of his effective offloads removing those stats gives a more accurate picture of life under Hasler for his hooker:
In 2018 Dean Pay took over as coach at the Bulldogs and re-signing Lichaa was one of his first acts as coach. Lichaa was the Bulldogs' starting hooker that year, other than a four game period in the middle of the year when he and Pay worked through some 'creative differences' of opinion.
Pay encouraged the Bulldogs to play a more expansive style, or as Lichaa said 'to play what's in front of you.' What is clear is there was a significant increase in Lichaa's willingness to attack with the ball with 2018 seeing a 27% increase in hitups over eight metres and a 45% increase in tackle busts by the hooker.
Myth status: CONFIRMED. Hasler is well known for demanding two things from his hooker - lots of tackles and speedy direct service to his playmakers. He does not want his number nine to ad lib and run with ball in hand. At the Bulldogs Des did his level best to bend Michael Lichaa to his will. Now we need to know has Hasler evolved, and if not will he attempt to stymie the styles of Manly hookers Api Koroisau and Manase Fainu?