“I’m not too concerned,” Hasler said after the decimated Sea Eagles finished with just one man on the bench in a bruising 14-6 win over premiership heavyweights Canberra on Sunday.
“There’s still time to go. Nathan Gibbs is our doctor and our HPU [high performance unit] is second to none. He’s just disappointed. He loves playing footy so that will be the hardest thing for him. We’ll get him back keen [though].”
It’s one of the best wins I’ve seen in a maroon and white jersey, particularly against a quality outfit in Canberra
On the same day as the winter solstice, Hasler would have been forgiven for thinking the sun might not rise at all on Monday morning.
The afternoon of Dylan Walker (foot) was done inside two minutes, Brad Parker’s lasted only a couple of minutes more after slipping in a tackle of Sia Soliola and being ruled out with concussion.
It’s hard to remember a team being down to 15 men any quicker in a match. That was on top of regular starters Martin Taupau, Moses Suli and Jorge Taufua already being sidelined.
Yet somehow, Manly showed the mettle most NRL coaches will kill for. Lachlan Croker looked at ease in the No.6, suffering his own nasty facial wound in a head clash with Tevita Funa. Curtis Sironen tackled everything that moved on his edge and then in the centres.
But still it was hard to get away from the injury to Trbojevic, who scored one and set up another, which came just 12 minutes into the second half, the NSW ace grabbing at his left hamstring on a routine kick return.
For the optimists, Manly claim it’s on the lower part of the hamstring than previous injuries.
Asked whether a third match on the same ground in less than 48 hours might have been a contributing factor, Hasler wasn’t too worried.
Understandably, he was keener to talk up the herculean effort of the players who managed to finish the game.
“It’s one of those games where you lose three players and you hang in there and hang in there you want to walk away with the points,” he said. “Those two points will be very valuable later in the year.
“It’s one of the best wins I’ve seen in a maroon and white jersey, particularly against a quality outfit in Canberra. They showed enough to hang in there.”
Ricky Stuart has problems, but ones he can fix. The Raiders’ usual free-wheeling attack suddenly looks limp. Manly, which led 12-0 at the break, were running on fumes in the second half.
Yet apart from a neat Jack Wighton ball for Elliott Whitehead, they couldn’t muster another try.
“It’s really disappointing in regards to the adversity Manly had to play under,” Stuart said. “We made our job a lot harder than what it should have been [on Sunday night], but that’s not taking away from the heart and courage Manly displayed in the tough scenario they faced.
“Stats aren’t lying there. We are struggling with our attack. We spoke quite thoroughly after the game. There’s not a lot to fix, but we need to fix them quickly.
“We have set a standard, as a coach, you want to be at every week. It’s not going to happen. We’re definitely not at the level of those two teams [Roosters and Eels] that played last night.”
MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES 14 (Tom Trbojevic, Tevita Funa tries; Reuben Garrick 3 goals) defeated CANBERRA RAIDERS 6 (Elliott Whitehead try; Jarrod Croker goal) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. Referee: Grant Atkins.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.